Album: Alanis Morissette – “Jagged Little Pill” (1995)

Ready to start this properly? Now we’ve got the lost (or more buried) pop albums out of the way, time to shift it up about a thousand gears to take care of one of the biggest albums of all time. I was trying to write an introduction to this album but I don’t think I can say anything that hasn’t been said already. The change in direction was obviously a massive success, shifting 16M copies (!) in the USA and 3M in the UK. On a more musical level, we all got introduced to Angry Alanis, and good LORD did she have some things to get off her chest.

I got this album in 1997, I think it was because of Ironic and my general attraction to ‘alternative’ female singer-songwriters. I spent a lot of that summer listening to music, and Jagged Little Pill was never far from my CD player. Hard to know what I thought of it then, but certainly a lot of it resonates with me these days. I’m always pleased to hear some well-constructed VENOM, and that’s the only way you can describe some of this. It’s quite therapeutic really, like Alanis is being FURIOUS on your behalf, so you can just relax.

Anyway, let’s get this going, cos I’M HERRRRE… to reMIND YEWWWWW about how great this still is.

10 All I really want – Mission statement time, Alanis is getting MARDY and make no mistake. Yes, people get pissed off and impatient sometimes, but sometimes it’s entirely justified and people who roll their eyes at them can just FUCK OFF. Ahem. Well I’m sure we’ve all had days like this, just not being understood, and have had so much time to articulate their thoughts that they can come up with songs like this. But don’t feel that it’s too scripted, sometimes the only way you can finish a sentence is with a HHAAHAAUHUHHAGGHH. Well anyway, the vocals are all over the place but it’s really not about that in this context, but it’s completely passionate and brilliant. I never gave this song too much thought before, but fucking hell do I get it now.

10 You oughta know – *Hyperbole overload*. I don’t want to lay it on too thick but this is THE best jilted lover song I have ever heard. It DRIPS with hatred and cold fury, and isn’t just a noisefest, in fact it’s catchy (though God knows how any radio stations played it). Poor Alanis isn’t taking the dumping too well, and comes out with line after line of amazing cut-downs too numerous to list. Well, special mention to the almost casual “does she know how you told me you’d hold me until you died, ’til you died, but YOU’RE STILL ALIVE”. She is angry that this guy didn’t just DIE, eesh … I don’t know, I just think this is the absolute pinnacle of Alanis, and possible even my favourite banshee track of all time.

09 Perfect – Phew… I need a sit down after all that excitement. Time for some more sedate angst, this time it’s the pushy parents doing the damage. It’s a pretty simple song really, about living up to ever-higher expectations. Seems like the pushy whoevers are a bit more active than the passive stuff I’m used to but she still does put a lot into this, I can totally believe that she wrote everything so far from her own experience, even if that’s not true. “I’ll live for you, I’ll make you what I never was, if you’re the best then maybe so am I”, ack… well I’m sure people can relate to this, probably why this sold so many copies. It’s easy for this sort of track to get lost in the mix, but really its tone is just as fitting as the rockier sounds on the angry tracks.

08 One hand in my pocket – One of the bigger hits from the album, and while it is really listenable I can’t help but think it’s a bit of a comedown. I like it, don’t get me wrong but the content isn’t there like it is in the others, there’s not a big story behind it. What, Alanis is a mass of contradictions? Well, OK fine, so what? Just feels a bit like a token radio hit, as pleasant as it is.

09 Right through you – Knives out again, am I right in thinking this is about her pop years and the crappy time she had during that period? Seems to be directed at a particular person at least, who didn’t give a shit until she was famous (“Now that I’m Miss THAAANNNG, now that I’m a ZILLIONAIRE”, pretty good foresight there!). I don’t really get that though, was she that famous before this was recorded? Anyway the anger is set to stun rather than kill, as it’s clear she’s happy that she’s the bigger person, which I’m sure it completely true, now SHE can be the one to not give a shit.

08 Forgiven – You know, I can never rememeber this song just by looking at the title. Interesting one as I feel this is one of the few moments of foreshadowing the next album, it’s a rather unhinged sounding track mixed with moments of sweetness in the vocals. Sounds like a bit of religious content to this but I’m not quite sure I’ve caught her drift. So I’m stuck just appreciating the music and vocals without the context, which isn’t really that bad, I’m firmly on board with the sound of this album.

09 You learn – Back to One Hand In My Pocket’s sound now, but feels like it’s saying a little bit more. I just think it’s the better song of the two, even if the content is still a little light. The fridge-magnet philosophy is a bit sickly but the song itself is a bit more substantial while still being radio-friendly. But that’s about all I have to say about it.

10 Head over feet – Now I DO love this, and refreshingly a bit more loved-up than the songs gone by so far, and there’s no sting in the tail either (how long do you give it before she flips?). I think this was a great choice of single, it has the radio-friendly sound but just feels more whole than You Learn and One Hand In My Pocket. Probably because it sounds more autobiographical, something that seems to be a great source of material for Alanis as I feel that’s when she’s the better writer. This just gives me warm fuzzies, and makes me a little sad that (as far as my experience went before now) we only got paler echoes of this afterwards. I love “Everything”, but hearing this now I can’t help but think that was just a diet version of this song.

09 Mary Jane – Always gives me a little PANG when I hear this, I never decided if she is singing about herself or a friend. A really sweet and poignant song, I think I would be in floods if this was about me. Her vocals are wonderful too, soaring in moments, tender in others, just love this song. Just hope Mary Jane turned out alright.

09 Ironic – Now for the other big hitter, probably her most famous song of all. Definitely it was a crucial one, whatever you think of it, as it was the biggest of the radio hits, and probably brought her to the public consciousness in a way that You Oughta Know hadn’t quite done. I love the fact that Alanis apparently didn’t really care that people were picking apart the irony (or lack of) in the song, or the idea that the song might itself be ironic by not having any irony. Not that anyone these days seems to know what irony is in the first place but let’s not go THERE. It’s just a rather fluffy pop song really, and there’s a reason it was such a hit, because it’s just great.

08 Not the doctor – OK Alanis isn’t happy about a guy now, he’s too clingy and needy and as we know she’s not having any of that. He gets off with only a minor tongue-lashing, probably best to quit while he’s ahead. Basically the song is a repetition of “I don’t need this crap, I don’t need this crap”, I suppose I’d relate to it more if I wasn’t the sort of person she’d write this song about. I like the turns of phrase she uses, and I never forgot this song. It’s not my favourite but still I enjoy it a lot.

07 Wake up – Bit of a damp one to finish on, thank God she has a reprise of You Oughta Know up her sleeve (it’s good enough to have on a CD twice, easily). Probably the lowlight of the album, just doesn’t have the power of the other tracks somehow. She just sounds crabby and tired, perhaps it’s one chewing-out too many, especially compared to the superior examples heard already. It’s alright, but that sadly that doesn’t compare favourably on this album.

09 Your house – Well, nearly over at least, there’s this secret track after the second You Oughta Know. Alanis has let herself into her lover’s house (change the locks, guys) to have a poke around and just be all loved-up and possibly stalkery. Tragedy strikes though when a love letter from another bitch is found and she is devastated. I think the power of this song is that there are so many unanswered questions: Is she an ex-lover? Is she just a stalker? What the fuck is she going to do next? Why are there ants in the shower? … chilling. I fucking hope it’s not Kate Bush’s house, she does NOT take kindly to home invasion.

So that’s kind of IT. Perhaps I did overrate it. Actually NO I didn’t, it’s really that good, and I imagine there are a number of you guys who would put it up there with the best. I certainly struggle to find albums where I really like MOST of it, that’s a bit of a rarity, I’m sure you feel the same way a lot of the time. This is just one of the albums where I feel like that.

Keepers for the iPod: All I really want, You oughta know, Perfect, Right through you, Head over feet, Mary Jane, Ironic, Not the doctor.


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