Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Liz Phair: Exile in Guyville [Matador, 1993]
She's a rebel, and if all goes well, also a pathfinder, which isn't certain mainly because the acts and attitudes that make her a rebel are so normal. Her number of partners may be over toward the right side of the bell curve. She may have commitment problems. But for at least two decades, bohemian women of a certain age have displayed this much desire, independence, bitchiness, self-doubt, and general weirdness--while continuing to pin down the unmanly emotional apercus that make "Dance of the Seven Veils" and "Divorce Song" so gender-specific. They can behave this way if they want--they're just not supposed to come out of the closet about it. And while Phair knows more than enough about tunes and guitars to challenge the taboo, the weirdness level of her spare, intuitive, insinuating demos-plus is bohemia-specific. Which is apt for sure. But not necessarily pathfinding. A