Back in 1996, I started graduate school at the University of Delaware. I was 22 years old, and it was right after college. I didn't like it very much. I didn't like the work, and I didn't like living in Newark, Delaware.
I spent most of the time I was supposed to be studying doing other things like watching hockey (an obsession that has kind of ended), watching football (still going strong), watching cartoons (guilty again), and buying/listening to alternative rock music.
It was in this time that I really got into bands like The Pixies, Catherine Wheel, Throwing Muses, and Liz Phair. I started buying up every Matthew Sweet album I could find. Even the imports and demo collections. Was I slightly obsessed? Maybe. Do I regret it? Absolutely not. My career as a research scientist didn't last long, but my love of alternative rock remains.
Last night, I was puttering around the computer while the baby napped, and I found some Liz Phair songs on YouTube. Every so often, I have to be reminded of just how good early Liz Phair is. It's really really good. It's honest, frank, explicit without being exploitative, and kind of rockin'. Yes, it has the female-singer-songwriter-with-an-acoustic-guitar vibe going, but it's the VERY BEST of that particular overworked genre, and she is pretty much the one who brought that form into prominence again.
Her later stuff isn't very good, as she decided to start channeling her inner Avril Lavigne, which really doesn't work for someone in her late 30s. The early stuff is wonderful though, and her first album "Exile in Guyville" routinely makes lists of "Greatest Albums of All-Time". Quite rightly.
Here's a grainy clip of her playing a live show back in 1995, two years after her first album came out. The lyrics have many four-letter words, so kids shouldn't play it.