Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Liz Phair - "Juvenilia" (LP Review)

The 1995 EP "Juvenilia" was basically an extended single for the song "Jealousy" from Liz Phair's excellent 1994 sophomore LP "Whip-Smart". In addition to "Jealousy", there are two new songs and five "old" songs from her fabled Girlysound demo tapes (nearly impossible to get in 1995). Liz mined those demo tapes for a majority of the material on her first three LPs, but the LP versions were always re-recorded with full-production, band members, etc. To the best of my knowledge, "Juvenilia" was the first time she released songs straight from Girlysound.

As such, their sound is pretty bare: just Liz strumming a guitar and a few multi-tracked vocals. No bass, no drums, just Liz with her attitude & guitar. Honestly, that's really all you need.

Do you need this EP? Well, how big a fan are you? "Jealousy" is a great song, but this is the same version that is on "Whip-Smart". Of the new tracks, she does a decent cover of "Turning Japanese" (originally by the one-hit wonders, The Vapors) but I never really cared that much for the original. The other new track, "Animal Girl", is not really bad, but isn't memorable either (foreshadowing for later material).

Of the Girlysound tracks, "California", "South Dakota", "Batmobile", "Dead Shark", and "Easy", only "Dead Shark" is close to being weak. The first two tracks are excellent, and I wonder why were never re-recorded for inclusion on later LPs. "California" was re-released on the 2nd half of 2010's "Funstyle", but I believe "Juvenilia" is the only in-print option to get the other four Girlysound tracks.

Standout songs: "Jealousy", "California", "South Dakota", "Batmobile", "Easy".

Skip 'em songs: none.

Other songs: "Turning Japanese", "Animal Girl", "Dead Shark"

Final score: 7/10. This one is hard to score. If you're a big fan, you already have this. If you're not a big fan, then her demo tapes aren't the place to start. I settled on a "7" since any serious collector should have this.

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