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
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.