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30 More Songs Day 4: Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville

January 18, 2012

My apologies. I didn’t mean to stay away so long. I’ve been busy at work. I have a sprained thumb. And also, I was abducted by space aliens and the dog ate my homework. And I don’t even have a dog.

But really, I’m struggling to come up with a song for day : favorite breakup song. I mean, come on. Does anyone really have a favorite breakup song? In my book, that’s an oxymoron. With breakups, I am a wallower. I like to pick at the scab of the relationship, so whatever songs were “our songs,” become the de facto breakup songs. I play them over and over again until I really can’t stand to listen to them for one more minute. And then I am over it. Catharsis, purging both the song and the boy.

There’s the guy I was dating when I went to college. We split amicably because we were moving to different states, me to become a journalist, he to become an architect (he’s now gay and a yoga teacher). I played the soundtrack of St. Elmo’s Fire to get over him (don’t judge me, it was the ’80s). I didn’t date much in college, at least not seriously. So I got to keep all my music from then, even some that was probably best thrown back on the dung heap (that Enya period? Yeah, it’s best not to speak of it). I lost Mahler to the first guy who really broke my heart. I’m not sure what I missed more, him or Mahler. (strangely, I just talked to him yesterday — if we’re becoming civil again, does that mean I get to reclaim Mahler?(.

Really the only breakup music I have that isn’t tied to a particular relationship is an entire album, not a song: Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville. It’s song after song worth belting out in anger with tears running down your face. It’s perfect for both wallowing in self-pity and wailing in righteous anger. It’s the ultimate breakup music. I wrote about one song in the last meme as the song I listen to when I’m angry. But really, the best thing in a breakup, when you’re done wallowing, is to pop Exile in Guyville into your car’s CD player and go for a nice long drive, singing as loud as you can. I highly recommend it.

Before writing this, I listened to the album for the first time in a long while. I didn’t lose it in a breakup, but I did have to put it away for a while. But it’s worn amazingly well. I know there are other formative albums in my life, but this is one I’m particularly fond of. Listening to it is like listening to myself 20 years ago. It’s a sound that matters to me. I just stuck the CD in my bag. It may not sound the same in my 21 year old mini-van, driving cautiously past AJ’s school to take him to band practice as it did in my weatherbeaten hand-me-down Volvo, driving through the cornfields of Indiana with all the window open and no particular place to be at no particular time, but it still sounds good, from beginning to end.

Here’s the album,in track order:


Help me, Mary


Dance of the Seven Veils

Never Said

Soap Star Joe

Explain it to Me



Fuck and Run (lyrics not work safe, duh)

Girls, Girls, Girls

Divorce Song


Flower (REALLY not work safe; possibly the dirtiest song I know)

Johnny Sunshine


Stratford-on-Guy (possibly my favorite for its minor key and mention of Galaxy 500)

Strange Loop

7 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2012 12:00 am

    Oh, I am sorry about your sprain! That’s no good, and I hope it heals quickly.

    I don’t know exactly what it is about her, but I’ve never been able to relate to Liz Phair. On paper, it seems like she’d be my spokeswoman, but that’s just never taken. That being said, “Fuck and Run” is pretty great.

  2. Cranky permalink
    January 19, 2012 9:16 am

    I think this CD is long gone from my collection, but nice to remember it.

    Remember that a previous game champ used his pointer.

  3. freshhell permalink
    January 19, 2012 9:24 am

    Sorry to hear about the homework. Those invisible dogs are a bitch. I would not be able to answer this question (not that I’d be able to answer any of the music meme questions) having not broken up with anyone in 25 years. And it was me who did the breaking up. I don’t know what he was listening to at the time but it’s water under the bridge now.

  4. January 20, 2012 4:43 pm

    For my second breakup, where I was the one sitting in the ejector seat when the button got pushed, Sam Phillips’ “Baby I Can’t Please You,” from her brilliant “Martinis and Bikinis” album, was on permanent repeat in my car.

    I’ve had a similar experience as Violet, it appears. Liz Phair was one of those singers I always thought I should like, but never quite cottoned to.

  5. January 20, 2012 6:51 pm

    I can understand not gelling with Liz Phair. I don’t like any of her other music. Just this album. For me, it was definitely partly the timing for me. the mix of sweet almost folky guitar, interesting chord progressions and the raw edged vocal was exactly what I needed to hear then. And also, she lived in my neighborhood, which may have made me predisposed to approve. It’s funny you mention Sam Phillips, Joy. I almost used “Taking Pictures” from her album “Fan Dance” for this post. But ultimately, I decided that it was a song that made me think about a breakup and not so much a song that made me feel it.

  6. January 22, 2012 1:21 pm

    i confess that i’ve never heard this, any of it…

    i like the few tracks i’ve tried.

  7. January 23, 2012 12:26 pm

    Part of it was a moment, too. Chicago’s moment, where a lot of musicians were having some success: Phair, Smashing Pumpkins, Urge Overkill, and house music all came out of Chicago in the early 1990s. We never became the new Seattle, though.

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