It has been 21 years since Liz Phair’s astonishing debut Exile in Guyville arrived, fully formed and knee deep in its own shit-talking. It was an album that documented the world that gave birth to it, the world of the bedroom musician and the musician’s bed. Now, over two decades on, Keel Her’s Rose Keeler-Schäffeler offers us a worthy update to that reportage. The songs on Keel Her are dispatches from the incidental; blurred selfies of a singular artist’s life.
Like Guyville this is 18 tracks — a huge number — selected from an even larger prior output. Instead of the self-released cassettes of Girly-Sound we have Keel Her’s Soundcloud and Bandcamp, which are vast and well worth exploring, though you may be lost for days. Favourites not on this album are ‘Almost Finished (My Life)’, ‘Other World’ and ‘Safe (Away)’. Keeler-Schäffeler is fond of parentheses.
The album opens with the sleepy, Phair-like chords of ‘Intro’, lulling the listener back to 1993, but quickly the riff falls apart into fuzz and backmasking and we’re shaken out of our reverie, the clock spinning further back to the femme-punk of ‘Go’, guitar and vocals hiccuping and yodelling in unison. Keeler-Schäffeler dips into 80s indie whenever she feels like it, with ‘Riot Girl’ closer to C86 shamblecore than the movement of its title, while ‘Black Hole’ and ‘(I Hate It) When You Look At Me’ recall the drone rock of the Pale Saints and The Jesus and Mary Chain.
There are great tunes hidden in this labyrinth. ‘I’d Be Your Slave’, remixed by DIY-Fi superstar R. Stevie Moore, lopes along splendidly, hi-hats chuff-chuffing, guitar mewing and Keeler-Schäffeler joining in absent-mindedly from another room. ‘In My Head’ is simple, catchy and affecting, all in under two minutes. Shorter still is the beautifully slippery space-elevator music of ‘Overtime’, made for headphones on our commute into orbit. But the closing ‘Roswell’ finally waves goodbye to the workaday life this album chronicles, waves to us from space, on its one-way, one-woman mission to the stars or wherever.