Whip-Smart artist Liz Phair has just released her first new full length album in over a decade with her latest record, Soberish. Phair’s new album follows her independent release of Fun Style back in 2010 and more recently the repackaged retrospective anniversary issues of Girly-Sound To Guyville. The Grammy nominated artist, who came to prominence with her breakthrough debut album, Exile In Guyville back in 1993 has had mixed reviews of her music this century with her shifting style dividing critics. Soberish will do little to appease those that fawned over Exile In Guyville or Whip-Smart.
Soberish contains none of Phair’s flair for pointed expression. It is devoid of any attitude, anger or angst. Where Phair’s 20th century albums were challenging and engaging, Sobreish is as laid back and lethargic as anything she’s previously ever done. Liz Phair’s latest record is Easy Listening that contradicts the very term if you were wanting or anticipating anything approaching her best work. Soberish, whilst not Phair’s finest album is also a little lazy. The song writing seems to be stuck in the past along with the arrangements.
Soberish is timid and tepid, awash with layers and harmonies that never really connect. Even the lyrics and song titles have next to nothing to suggest that they’re from 2021. There are far too many repeated lines that form the title of some of the songs. Soberish is a lot like listening to a poor Carpenters covers album by a capable Soft-Rock band who infuse their sound with some Country and Western.
Phair’s latest single, The Game, and many more of Liz Phair’s songs on Soberish, scream mid American day time radio. They drift past you effortlessly and unassumingly, never troubling your ear, or exciting your senses. Whilst Phair may have embraced the mainstream in the 21st century she has also seemingly sold out and rolled over. After listening to F**k and Run or Stratford-On-Guy the sound of the electro infused half-hearted In There just seems dull at best. There seems to be no energy or enthusiasm in the soundtrack or the vocal delivery.
If Soberish has any redeeming features at all it is when you ignore all that’s gone before it and merely concentrate on what’s being presented. Even then though it is difficult to extenuate the positives. The harmonies are carefully crafted, if a little laboured; the production is polished but predictable and the album is at least cohesive and consistent. Sheridan Road does have more to offer in terms of quality and engagement as you are pulled into the slowly developing storyline and Ba Ba Ba does mix up the routine with it’s percussive score. Hey Lou is one of the more up-beat and animated and Liz Phair’s voice is smoother than ever but that’s not enough to save this album from being a tad boring and very underwhelming. Easy listening Soft-Rock had it’s day and I don’t think it’s going to make a credible come back with Soberish, sorry Liz.