Friday, July 21, 2017

Certain Songs #937: Liz Phair – “Explain it to Me” | Medialoper

Album: Exile in Guyville
Year: 1993

Of course, if Exile in Guyville had been nothing but straight forward indie pop songs, it wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting.

Instead, Liz devoted a significant chunk of the album’s running time to more experimental or atmospheric songs, featuring offbeat sounds, slow tempos and, in the case of “Dance of the Seven Veils” and “Flower,” some of her most explicit lyrics, as well. My favorite of all of these was the sad, shimmering “Explain it to Me.”

With Liz providing the sad with a lonely electric guitar and producer Brad Wood providing the shimmering with a synth, Liz turns the melancholy setting her voice to 11 as she sings:

Head underwater
Keeps getting harder
Give ’em your medicine
Fame injection

At first, “Explain it To Me” seems like it might be a respite from all of the stories she was telling on herself, like later on when she gets incredibly meta in “Shatter,” but instead it turns into the musical equivalent of something scribbled in a journal at 2:45 AM just before passing out: woozy, fuzzy, nonlinear but probably making sense at the time.

Tell him to jump higher
Tell him to run farther
Make him measure up
Ten times longer than you ever should
You never could explain them to me
Explain them to me

Of course, what gets “Explain It To Me” across is the long, gorgeous melody line in that chorus, and how her voice wraps itself around that melody line without missing a step. It’s just so ridiculously lovely, and because it really only happens once in the song, at the very end, it always leaves you wanting more.

“Explain it to Me”

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