Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be the 100 Most Dynamic Debut Albums Ever Made, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Click “Next Album” below to explore each album or view the full album index here.
According to Liz Phair, her critically applauded debut album Exile in Guyville is a loosely constructed song-by-song response to the Rolling Stones’ 1972 double LP Exile on Main St. A female counterpoint to Mick, Keith and crew’s classic, testosterone-driven affair, in other words.
Regardless of the Stones connection, Exile succeeds on its own unique merits as an irreverent and at-times brutally honest proclamation of independence and vulnerability, whether it be sexually, romantically, or emotionally. "I feel like I had been listening to records for ten years where guys talked explicitly about sex," Phair reflected to NPR in 2008. "Women were sort of shunted to the area of emotion. But I've always been really pissed off, frankly, [about] that whole myth that women aren't interested in sex. If you had 30,000 years of really bad consequences for being interested in sex, you might hide it, too."
Sure, Phair’s conversational and confessional songwriting approach showcased on standout tracks like album opener “6’1,”” “Fuck and Run,” and “Divorce Song” are firmly entrenched within indie rock lore. But at the risk of oversimplifying, Exile also just sounds great. A mix of sparse, lo-fi arrangements (“Dance of the Seven Veils,” “Glory,” “Shatter”) juxtaposed with harder guitar-driven fare (“Help Me Mary,” “Never Said,” “Johnny Sunshine”), all wrapped within inventive melodic structures, Exile is not just one of the greatest debut albums of all time, it’s one of the most unforgettable LPs ever made, independent of any classification.