In 2003, Liz Phair decided to celebrate the 10th anniversary of her critically lauded debut, Exile in Guyville, by turning out the most critically reviled work of her career, the eponymous Liz Phair. Apparently, being rock’s hottest MILF wasn’t enough for the indie queen; her (at the time) 36-year-old mid-life crisis had led her to want more, more, more. You can’t fault her ambition, though her execution seems questionable.
Two years later, Phair’s back with Somebody’s Miracle: Fourteen tracks so shiny and spit-polished by overproduction that the transitions between them become sufficiently blurred that only the CD player can verify which track you’re listening to. While she’s marginally corrected her sonic and lyrical trajectories from her last outing, she’s still staring into the same abyss Britney Spears calls her career.
Songs like the opener, “Leap of Innocence,” offer a glimmer at the marriage of indie sensibilities and big-pop orchestrations that Phair seems to be searching for. There’s an emotional forthrightness here, even if it is muddled by glitzy production. “Stars and Planets” offers some solid verses, too, only to be undermined by an Ecstasy-happy chorus: “We all shine! Shine! Shine!” Then there are hook-laden tracks that seem to be recorded simply for romantic comedy soundtracks: “Count on My Love” (“You can count on my love/With me you’ll feel protected and you’ll never be rejected”), and “Everything to Me” (“Do you really know me at all?/Would you take the time to catch me if I fall?”).
The ghostly remains of Phair’s integrity keep her from being lost to us forever; despite the missteps on Somebody’s Miracle, there’s still hope.