i’ll be the first to admit, i was less than impressed with Liz Phair’s two previous outings, Somebody’s Miracle and Liz Phair. Sure, they each had a track or two worth listening to, but truth be told, they weren’t stellar. During the most recent phase of her career, Phair seemed to go out of her way to court an audience that wasn’t interested. Worse yet, it looked like she was spiting the fan base she did have to assumedly capture a bigger slice of the marketing pie. Then, when it seemed she couldn’t piss off her core any further, she does a complete and total about face and drops what has been kindly described as a career killer. i’m here to say, fuck all y’all haters. Funstyle not only isn’t that bad, it’s actually got a couple of “return to form” moments, too.
“Smoke” kicks things off, a tongue-in-cheek knock against her former label, essentially an imagined dialogue with her various detractors. The chorus, however, with its bluesy piano, actually is pretty damn good, reminiscent of “Baby Got Going” to my ears. “Bollywood” is the track you may have heard already, a goofy rap that further decries the industry. At this point, the album seems a bit too self-aware (if this is the album that cost Phair her career, why do all the songs talk about her fall?); i have to imagine the opening tracks were written after the fact, but still. Fortunately, silly or not, they ain’t bad. The album then takes a turn towards the sincere with “You Should Know Me” and “Miss September,” a nice touch. “My My” comes as close to R&B style funk as i believe Liz has ever come, and quite frankly, she holds her own admirably. Maybe it’s the horns and the backing singers, but i dig the sound. “Oh Bangladesh” skews closer to the sound i’ve come to expect from the Illinois native, and “Bang Bang” might be the best damn song she’s performed in years–it’s earnest, it’s simple and it’s good, ’nuff said. “Beat Is Up” is another one of the silly numbers, making liberal use of a guru extolling the virtues of letting go of one’s past mistakes sprinkled between Phair pushing a pumping chorus and one of the best Chicago accents since Bill Swerkski’s Super Fans and Da Bears. “And He Slayed Her” is a good mid-tempo number, in the same category as the album’s middle tracks. “Satisfied,” interestingly enough, is the only track here i didn’t particularly find satisfying. “U Hate It”closes the kimono by further shitting on the industry, imagining that the album was a success and that the heads in charge of the industry are just idiots.