I'll say one thing for Liz Phair's new album: It really makes you appreciate the last one. That self-titled set came as a major shock for all fans of the daring, intelligent songwriting that Phair was known for. But in retrospect, her swing into mindless teen-pop was so blatant, so shameless, you had to enjoy it just a little.
In contrast, Somebody's Miracle is no fun - not a terrible album, just a thoroughly ordinary one. It's being hyped as Phair's return to grown-up songwriting, but she never played it this safe in the old days. Suddenly, she's griping about celebrity ("Stars and Planets"), using the word "baby" in too many lyrics, and endlessly wondering if she'll ever find the perfect relationship. She also gets uncharacteristically moralistic when writing about alcoholism ("Table for One"). The production is by-the-numbers Adult Alternative, and Phair ruins good songs by quoting from better ones ("Got My Own Thing" can live without the Velvet Underground fadeout). The sad part is that pop fans who bought the last album because of "Why Can't I?" won't like this any more than exiles from Guyville will.
Copyright © 2013 Bonnier Corp. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.