Wednesday 20 November 2019

Alanis is no longer blinded by the lights

John Meagher

John Meagher

album of the week

alanis morissette

Havoc and Bright Lights

(Columbia)

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It's been 17 years since Alanis Morissette released her monumentally popular Jagged Little Pill album. Having shifted 33 million copies, it's the second highest selling album by a female artist in music history. Only Shania Twain's Come On Over has sold more.

Going from little-known teenage singer with a penchant for angsty, strident pop-rock to a global superstar and the reluctant voice of a generation by the age of 21 is an adjustment that most would struggle with and it's probably understandable that much of the Canadian's subsequent music has found her trying to come to terms with that seismic period of her life.

She even considered calling one of her albums Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Consequently, Morissette has become somewhat notorious for the relentless self-analysis of her songs, with her 2002 album, Under Rug Swept, in particular, sounding like the product of extensive psychoanalysis.

Havoc and Bright Lights is her eighth album and the 38-year-old is showing few signs of letting up on the pop-psychology.

But while previous efforts were ripe for lampooning, these songs are less reactionary.

There's a new-found sense of maturity here as she ruminates on motherhood and monogamy and where previously the listener might have felt they had happened upon self-help industry sloganeering, the Alanis of 2012 is more reflective.

Happily, she has improved as a lyricist too. The clunkily worded, desperately prosaic lines that pockmarked her songs for much of her career have been supplanted by verse that's more engaging and a whole lot more intriguing. "Hey woman haters," goes a line from the impassioned Woman Down. "We've lowered the bar on the behaviour we'll take."

And there's less of the stridency of old. Instead, songs such as Guardian -- which addresses the singer's hopes and fears for her young son -- are built around radio-friendly choruses and smart arrangements.

Despite these improvements, Morissette can still be shrill and hectoring and all too often she struggles to say anything we haven't been told a thousand times before.

Celebrity rails against the fame-for-fame's-sake phenomenon that most of us have been conscious of for at least a decade.

And Numb -- which seems at least in part indebted to the U2 song of the same name -- tells us nothing new about drugs, dependency and depression.

KEY TRACKS Guardian; Win and Win

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