The Austin Chronicle

Summertime Peruse

Liz Phair broke a lot of strings – and Kanye, from bootstraps to bootlickers

Reviewed by Chase Hoffberger, May 30, 2014, Music

Exile in Guyville

by Gina Arnold
Bloomsbury Publishing, 122 pp., $13

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

by Kirk Walker Graves
Bloomsbury, 152 pp., $14.95 (paper)

Ever since Warren Zanes found a way to write 131 pages about Dusty Springfield's Dusty in Memphis in 2003, Bloomsbury's 33¹3 series has sourced some of the most in-depth and exhaustive examinations of popular music's most essential albums. This month, volumes 96 and 97. The appraisals, Gina Arnold on 1993 Liz Phair breakout Exile in Guyville and Kirk Walker Graves wrestling Kanye West's 2010 masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, are notable for the degrees to which they differ. Both center around Chicago natives; Graves reveals an artist helplessly consumed with materialism and fame, while Arnold discovers "a celebration of the troubling emotional quandaries that twenty-something women can get into in the realms of [the] arty bohemian urban world of the mid-1990s music scene," one rife with more men than guitar strings – and there were a lot of guitar strings. Graves' trope details MBDTF song by song, breaking down each guest spot and production decision, while Arnold's study veers more abstract, remembering with primary focus what it was like to hear, sing, and strum a six-string with such strength, soul, and sincerity.

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