Ten years before the blog boom, Phair practiced oversharing as performance art — to create a virtually perfect debut. Released in 1993, and billed as a song-by-song response to the Stones’ Exile on Main Street, Exile in Guyville was a peep show of sexual and emotional bravado, conducted over scrappy rock riffs. A 26-year-old indie babe who dropped bons mots like “I want to be your blow-job queen” (see “Flower”), Phair commanded attention, though much of it came from clueless dudes who just wanted the sex talk without the complicated emotions Phair brought to it. Yet 15 years later, her debut still sounds as brazen and heartbroken as ever. When she sings, “I want a boyfriend,” on “Fuck and Run” — a cotton-mouthed half-apology over brittle rhythm guitar and muted drums — she nails the struggle between dependence and independence at the heart of romance.
Phair’s glossier subsequent releases increasingly snubbed the indie-rock world, which never really forgave her. So along with three bonus tracks from the pre-Guyville demos collection Girly Sounds (check out the dub-reggae lark “Say You”), this reissue includes a 60-minute, Phair-directed documentary about Guyville that’s a group-therapy session with peers and fans. Phair even hugs it out with Urge Overkill’s Nash Kato after confessing that Guyville was written largely about him. A must-see for alt-rock obsessives, the film dissects a record whose rawness remains as compelling for guys as for women. As Phair’s Windy City pal John Cusack notes, “A man could listen to you revile him for hours…”