B-Girl Power

Like pink lemonade with a Guinness chaser.

Poised to complete the B-Girl Power Triad (with Britney and Buffy,

chart and vampire slayers, respectively) in this year's Teen Takeover,

Bijou Phillips simply can't lose.

No plastic princess she, Phillips brings a six-pack to the party

(formerly stocked with Crystal Lite): a strong, versatile voice, a

taste for wildly disparate styles and enough depth and emotion to put

the other mini-divas to shame. While they sing of puppy love, Phillips

soberly examines lost childhoods ("Little Dipper") and dark

relationships with a tone that takes every word seriously.

Even without her pedigree (dad is Papa John Phillips, half-sis is

Chynna of Wilson-Phillips fame; not that anyone down at the food court

gives a flip) she would be a shoo-in for success. Her voice, after all,

is a match made in A&R heaven -- a cross between Natalie Imbruglia and

Sheryl Crow.

What the mall-rats of America will love (if they know what's good for

them) about I'd Rather Eat Glass is how well it captures the

pure essence of teenagerliness. You know: emotions painfully close to

the surface; everything extra-dramatic; bodies, minds and personalities

changing by the second.

By bringing (consciously or not) each of these elements to her debut,

Phillips manages to paint a picture of young, confused girldom that's

far more realistic than any glossed-up, idealized corporate version.

With the tools to make it happen (again, that voice: powdered-sugar

powerful), she pulls off every style she takes on. In a bell-clear,

sun-washed tone, she tackles wispy/strong, raw/polished, affected/

confessional, blues/pop/rock and even jazz -- all with equal ease.

As befits her junior celebrity upbringing (she modeled for a bit),

Phillips approaches her music like an actress. Continually trying on

different skins and morphing her vocals to fit them, she trips from

jaded party chick to kewpie doll in the space of a heartbeat.

Entertainment or cause for alarm? You be the judge.

In the mad rush to cover all the bases, Phillips and producer Jerry

Harrison have overstuffed each space with quirk: bouncing baby hula-

girl voices, techno samples, canyon-hippie acoustic noodling, punk

riffs, sped-up bongoes, full-on gospel choruses -- touches which

alternately charm and annoy. At times this strategy makes it seem as

though they're not confident enough in the song and the voice.

But the worst part about bouncing around styles like a restless

channel-surfer is that the chance of finding any sound that's

unique to Phillips gets lost. This schizo quality (and the essay-length

credits) can be attributed to the fact that each track has a different

co-writer, including '80s pop icon Howard Jones ("So Tired") and

Luscious Jackson's Jill Cunniff ("Mermaid and the Earthman").

The collaboration with Cunniff produced one of the best songs on the

disc, along with "Hawaii" (sad diary observations with a soaring

chorus), the nearly-punk "I Never Shot The President" (bratty, sassy, a

Courtney/Gwen rock fest) and "When I Hated Him (Don't Tell Me)" (a

powerful, heartfelt break-up ballad -- prom committees, take notice!).

"Mermaid," which could be mistaken for a Luscious Jackson

song, clocks in at six minutes (that fly by like two) with shuffly

Brazilian beats, chunked-up guitar chords and a catchy, freakish,

high-pitched "doot doot doot!" chorus. The lyrics are dreamy, a grown-up

child's fairy tale -- which, come to think of it, is a good way to

describe the album.