All’s Phair


Liz Phair did more last year than ignite the unforgiving fire of cred-obsessed indie folk. She also sold more CDs than Guided by Voices! And she mainstreamed a new creative model for post-Avril teen-popsters like Ashlee Simpson, Fefe Dobson, and Courtney Love, in which mall-stalker sparkle and sk8er-girl grit aren’t mutually exclusive qualities but complementary values in the more truthful (and entertaining) commodification of the young woman’s heart.

Phair told Spin a couple of months ago that Flutterby, the debut by 24-year-old Australian Butterfly Boucher, changed her life, or at least the portion of it since Flutterby was released to the plaudits of Boucher’s webmaster in February. I suspect hyperbole, but I can understand Phair’s affection. If Liz Phair was the sound of crooked-reign indie rock glammed up to seduce people not in college, then Flutterby is its opposite: big-chorused post-adolescent girlysounds played with the sharp angles and intemperate clang of college-radio rock.

Wait, come back! It’s actually great, overflowing with catchy melodies, cool textures, tight grooves, and Boucher’s airy singing, which suggests her recent tourmate Sarah McLachlan after a Wellbutrin withdrawal. Boucher corrects indie rock’s central character flaw—no character—with a frayed Trapper Keeper full of young-person dudgeon: fairy-tale environmentalism in “A Beautiful Book,” freshman-year adventurism in “Busy,” love-song existentialism in “A Walk Outside.” In the tightly wound “Another White Dash,” she fantasizes about leaving town with “everything you think you’ll ever need sitting in the seat next to you”; that Boucher’s her own one-woman Glen Ballard, playing all the instruments sitting in the seat next to her, gives the song a neat burst of meta-flavor.

Katy Rose, a 17-year-old Los Angeleno who on the cover of Because I Can could be Phair’s black-eyelinered problem child, gets her flavor from more familiar sources: “I need to take a shower when I look at you,” she coos in “Overdrive,” a pile-driving indictment of the culture’s consumption of her peer group. Since Rose is neither the singer nor the songwriter Boucher is, she leans more heavily on attitude in “I Like,” where “you might just turn into something I like,” and “Watching the Rain,” where she lets the precipitation fall down less hummably but more sassily than Hilary Duff. Her band’s bubblegrunge guitar chug limits her range, too, which makes her acoustic and fake-trip-hop numbers sound weightier than they are. But after a stultifying stretch of exclusive tough-or-tender, it’s encouraging to hear Rose’s kind out of exile.