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Liz Phair: Whitechocolatespaceegg (Capitol)

Pop music's last half-decade has been crowded with bad-tempered guitar- wielding women, most of whom resemble either Alanis Morissette, with her hear-me-roar psychobabble, or Sheryl Crow, with her gritty, gritted-teeth, retro-rock vignettes. And each time a new record by any of these women is released, someone complains that Liz Phair did it all first. Phair's Exile In Guyville (1983) and Whip-Smart (1984) were acclaimed as - to use an inappropriate term - seminal. Now, after a five-year absence, she is back at last to reclaim her throne ... and she sounds pretty much like Alanis Morissette and Sheryl Crow. Phair's new album is a solid addition to the genre, but it never transcends that genre, as you might hope. For all the casual swear words, Whitechocolatespaceegg isn't notably acute or ground-breaking. And although it is produced by Scott Litt, architect of some of REM's best albums, it doesn't venture far from jangling, downhome soft rock. Meanwhile, Phair's cool, proudly flat vocals, like those of a sedated Courtney Love, serve only to make her seem as if she can't be bothered.