Liz Phair’s fourth album, Liz Phair, is her Post-Divorce Record, but not exactly like Annie Lennox’s – more like a guy’s midlife-crisis Maserati, except Phair has bought song docs the Matrix’s cowriting and production for four cravenly catchy anthems with big guitars and bigger choruses. Five tracks also survive from the more sober project she originally cut with Michael Penn. The resulting hybrid is an honestly fun summer disc with plenty of dark crevices, and a fascinating exercise in just what it means to act your annum in these age-unspecific times.
Phair’s ambition to remake herself into a Top 40 pop goddess will cost her plenty of old fans, but no one can accuse her of not being as up-front about her age and status as she is about lusting after a hit. The nearly lullaby-like ”Little Digger” is surely among the few rock songs written in which a mom frets about the effect of sleepover suitors on her small fry. The closest comparison for ”Rock Me,” a slice of bubblegum metal about having an Xbox-addicted b.f. a decade her junior, would be ”Hey Nineteen,” but instead of name-checking Aretha, it’s ”Your record collection don’t exist/You don’t even know who Liz Phair is” – and, unlike Steely Dan, she’s too horny to get bogged down in May/December angst.
With Phair’s turning back the clock, a sex-crazed kid somehow tangled up in the skin of a late-thirtysomething divorced mom, at least you’re hearing each emotional scenario explored this specifically for the first time. Maybe that’s what separates the women from the girls.