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You’re Looking At It, Babe

Can Boy-Crazy Liz Bring Girls Home and Make Us Like It?

Liz Phair always wanted to be Liz Phair. Even in 1993, when Exile in Guyville gave voice to girls alienated from both Main Street and Pussy Galore boy-rock entitlement, Liz felt lucky, punks. On Guyville, she promised to “weave my disgust into fame.” Fast-forward to eponymous 2003, when for some, the blowjob-queening that once signalled post-fem fun for the recklessly sexy seems to be veering closer to Extreme Makeover hell. I prefer to think Liz is creating art that approaches modern “stardom” like Philip K. Dick would a spectacular dystopia.

At the Bowery on Sunday, as Phair played new Sk8tr Girl changes and sang about being a mom-sexpot en route to MILF-dom, women and girls were nearly absent in the sea of aging indie-boy pates. Course, some pates weren’t indie at all. A divorced dad from Jersey told me that he (like “Rock Me” ‘s Xbox romper) didn’t know who Liz Phair was until two weeks ago, when the guitar-straddle shot on her CD caught his eye. He listened, liked the lyrics, and bought it. Discovering his sister was a fan (not of this record, natch), he borrowed the old stuff and liked that, too.

But the phantom girls for whom Liz hoped aloud that “Extraordinary” is “the new ‘Six Foot One’—much to the chagrin of some critics” (hey, don’t look at me, I called it a “self-love ‘Supernova’ “)—were hardly in evidence. As it was, Liz’s stance, in panty-sheer tunic-mini, seemed tentative as her strums. Thankfully, this tour’s rent-a-band bolsters her quaver with sensibilities more jammy than hammy.

She played lots from Exile, plus the lusciously quirky “Uncle Alvarez” from Whitechocolatespaceegg, which transitioned kinda unsmoothly into new radio-bids like the terrific “Red Light Fever,” anthemic “Why Can’t I?” and rollicking “Rock Me.” And we applauded not her stage command but the fact that she can write songs this good—inside the Matrix and out. Also that she’s bold enough to sing about possibly traumatizing her kid with serial boyfriends; subversive enough to talk about dating much younger guys; and honest about wanting to rock hard before society dares to revoke her license to thrill. Laura Sinagra


Party Every Day

Oral Fixation: The Best Lips and Tongue in Glam Pop Metal

Gene Simmons is coughing up blood with each epileptic spasm, his ethereal white skin marred by a crimson stain. The stage is smoky and the guitars distorted, but three monitors magnify the blood lust. Demonic peals of laughter echo from a wall of sound, and the eight-year-old next to me leans forward. We both gasp when Simmons’s quivering tongue darts out at us before, bat-like, he ascends to the rafters 100 feet above.

Kiss fans were legion at the sold-out double bill with Aerosmith last Monday night at Jones Beach, and this army’s vaudevillian entertainment was scarier than Bob Hope: Sparks lit up the amphitheater during “Black Diamond,” and every time Peter Criss hit the skins, deafening booms impaired ears as far as the nosebleed section. The stage was set ablaze for “Firehouse,” and Simmons, looking very 11th century with a torch (but no hair shirt), breathed flame. Who cares if Paul Stanley can’t hit all the notes when he’s voguing onstage, topless, in four-inch silver platforms to “Let Me Go, Rock ‘n’ Roll” or smashing his guitar to a “Rock and Roll All Nite” encore? Who’s going to notice that all the band’s songs sound the same (blistering guitar assaults, nonstop commands “to rock ‘n’ roll”) when they drive middle-aged moms to feign cunnilingus on Monstervision?

Compared to Kiss, Aerosmith sounded like a brawling barroom philharmonic. Steven Tyler, in a “Don’t Give Me No Lip, I’ve Got Enough of My Own” T-shirt, brashly strutted the catwalk leading from the stage to the VIP section. Old man Tyler looks so good he must eat Botox for breakfast—either that or he and daughter Liv really are part of an elvish super race. The audience stood and sang the words to the band’s ’80s revival output—”Janie’s Got a Gun,” “Love in an Elevator,” “Ragdoll”—and impatiently sat through new roadhouse material, including the blues-cover staple “Baby Please Don’t Go.” Where Kiss was juvenile, Aerosmith was confident; where Kiss was earsplitting, Aerosmith was tuneful. The only thing gayer than Paul Stanley shaking his hair like he was in an Herbal Essence commercial, however, was Steven Tyler vamping a shaggy red pimp hat to the tune of “Walk This Way.” Carla Spartos

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