First, my apologies that I couldn’t resist the almost not-safe-for-work title, especially to those expecting posts about astrophysics and cosmology rather than a reference to a 1987 record by Big Black (which it’s worth pointing out can be found in its entirety on YouTube). But this is not a post about Big Black.
Rather, it’s a brief reminiscence of another album with a similar subject matter and a very different style, Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville, which I was shocked to discover is about to have its 20th anniversary, also commemorated with an article and interview in the Chicago Tribune.
I lived in Chicago in the early 90s when Exile In Guyville was released, although I don’t think I heard it until I left town and moved to Toronto a few months later. But she was already a presence on the scene when Chicago was taking its place in the world of post-Nirvana indie-rock (led by the Smashing Pumpkins, along with Urge Overkill, who never quite capitalised on the marquee placement of their “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon” cover on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, and my favourite, Eleventh Dream Day). It was a record full of great songs about fucking and love and being a lonely twenty-something hipster in a big city, and was a sort of homage to the Rolling Stones’ own Exile on Main Street, all of which was enough to make rock critics (and wannabes like me) wet their pants — although by now I’m sure the Stones reference is irrelevant to record’s brilliance. “Guyville” was code (surfacing first in an Urge Overkill song) for the Wicker Park neighbourhood which was the center of the Chicago rock scene, and home to my second-favourite Chicago bar, the still-going-strong Rainbo Club (alas, my favourite, Ciral’s House of Tiki, closed in 2000).
And the title of this post also covers The Book of Mormon, which I went to see in London’s West End last week, the filthy and wonderful musical comedy from the creators of South Park. Despite songs about sex with amphibians (and worse), a character named “General Butt Fucking Naked” (sort of named after a real Liberian warlord), and being self-consciously suffused with coarse stereotyping of Africans and the eponymous Mormons, manages to be old-fashioned, warm-hearted and strangely, uncynically, affirming of the ability of individuals to actually make a difference in each other’s lives.