Phair made an impressive and audacious debut last year with. Exile in Guyville, a song-by-song counterpoint to the Rolling Stones' classic Exile on Main Street. Now that she has proved her ability to swagger like Jagger, Phair reveals a softer side on this follow-up disc. The most impressive songs here—"Nashville" and "X-Ray Man"—deal with the age-old pitfalls of romance. It's a shame, though, that muddy vocal mixes throughout obscure some of her more vulnerable lyrics.
That's not to say that this often outrageous singer-songwriter has forgotten the down and dirty: the F word gets mentioned in the album's first 35 seconds, and Phair in a later cut celebrates oral sex. Phair may have become wildly popular with music critics for her post-feminist poses, but any songwriter who sardonically notes (in "Alice Springs") that a light sweeping across the sky usually leads to a "carpeting store on opening day" deserves praise. (Matador/Atlantic)