So anyway, after the banshee blowout of the last album it was time to get a bit more accessible. Not that she seems to be having any more luck with relationships, as once again this seems to be fertile ground for a bit of rage and psychoanalysis. I was surprised at how many people seem quite loonishly fond of this album, I don’t really hear it much in general conversation, and had it down as a weaker successor to the previous two albums. But over the last few weeks it has been quite enjoyable. I can’t say I really love it but… well, let’s just get on with it.
08 21 things I want in a lover: Was this really not a single? Or you know, a proper one. Anyway a memorable opener, with Alanis reeling off a list of rather specific qualities she’s after, not much to ask for… The rocky riff throughout is catchy, it’s a strong first track and even comes with a chorus. So we are already distinguishing ourselves from the more off-the-wall moments of SFIJ. A little TMI in places, it’s not bad as a concept, but I don’t really relate so much to it (probably I’m more desperate than her).
08 Narcissus: STUPID MEN. After that last track, Alanis is still going to great lengths to demand what she wants from a man, and this poor group of men end up in the reject bin. It is rather snarky, which I am enjoying, and there are some typically made-up-sounding words thrown around. After an extended period of this sort of song, I do find myself wondering if she’ll ever be happy in a relationship. She certainly gives the impression that she’s attracted to some of these people despite hating some of their personalities. Can you imagine her as your girlfriend??
10 Hands Clean: Ahh now I DO love this, the lead single with a lovely video. A strong song that doesn’t sound like her previous singles but has that warmness to it that my favourite Alanis songs have. Not that she’s recounting a very pleasant period in her life but still. I just love that bridge and chorus, ooooh this could get messy. Really strong chorus, love it, and that middle 8 just melts me, GORGE.
08 Flinch: I had no idea this was 6 minutes long, although it is a slowie it really doesn’t feel like that. Also it is something I can relate to, as I’m sure a lot of us can, i.e. something awful happened between you and someone, and inspires an OTT emotional response when the event ever comes up. I suppose it does drag along a little bit, perhaps a chorus too many, but I just sort of GET IT.
09 So unsexy: Now I really loved this when it came out, surprised this never made it as a single either. Again I sort of get this one, something I interpret as being about seemingly minor setbacks or criticisms just totally knocking you over. I guess I get fixated on things like this a lot, maybe we aren’t seeing completely eye-to-eye, it’s not my ANTHEM or anything. Sweet verses and a lovely chorus, like a more down-tempo cousin of Hands Clean, I like it when she’s introspective like this rather than being all judgey about other people.
08 Precious illusions: Another early favourite, which I’m informed DID make it to be a single, albeit a flop one. I suppose this is about facing harsh realities when denial is just so much easier. I should relate to this, but I haven’t quite reached that stage yet thankyou. It’s a strong single I think but something is missing here and I can’t put my finger on it. I do love the chorus though.
10 That particular time: OMG this always makes me a big tingly and misty, even though the starts of the verses remind me of Candle in the wind (distracting). While I haven’t really been in a relationship to relate to this fully, I can sort of appreciate the “letting go” aspect of the song. It’s just a bit of a heartbreaker, especially towards the end when she realises that there is no saving the relationship and she needs to let go of it. That middle 8 is really sad and gorgeous, particularly “in the meantime I lost myself, I’m sorry I lost myself”, it’s giving me goosebumps just hearing that again.
07 A man: I can’t give 8+ to everything sadly (well I could but I’d be lying), and sadly I break the trend here. After the rather unexpectedly Asian-sounding intro, it settles into a song about being a man I suppose, but in a way that I can’t really get into. I think it’s about trying to be a good guy despite the pressure to be BUTCH etc, correct me if I’m wrong, probably why I can’t really relate to it! Feels very SFIJ once the crunching guitars kick in, but sadly I don’t really like it that much compared to the rest.
09 You owe me nothing in return: Another chiller, but I don’t really understand what this is about. I love the intro and the beat, and I believe what she’s singing, in fact it makes me feel a bit sad but I’m not sure why. The thing I have a problem with is that it doesn’t sound like Alanis, she’s pretty much unconditionally giving up to some unreasonable demands here and it just doesn’t fit with everything I’ve heard so far. I just feel like the whole story isn’t here, if the guy did something to deserve this, or if she’s just taking the piss a bit … I don’t know. That middle 8 is gorgeous though, I really love the sound of the song.
07 Surrendering: Upbeat time now, always a jarring experience with Alanis. It’s jaunty enough but it’s a really awkward song, the lyrics are pretty OTT. She’s can’t just write a love song, she seems to have grated a few thesauruses into her organic muesli. Just a bit of a switch-off, sorry.
06 Utopia: Closing time now, and it’s pow-wow time around a campfire or something. I’ve just read that it was a post 9/11 effort, so everyone was all traumatised and listening to Enya, so I can see how this came about. I don’t really like the chorus, Uuuu-toooo-pyaaaa … ech, who needs it? I don’t want my banshees singing about world peace, I want them scratching their nails down someone else’s back. Just a bit too hippy commune for me, SORRY, I’ve always been a CYNIC.
So there we have it, another album down, two left (and all the odds and ends which I AM doing). While I think it’s a strong selection of songs and does benefit enormously from not being as bloated as SFIJ was at its worst, I just don’t quite connect with them the same way as I did with the previous albums. That’s not to say I didn’t like the album, on the contrary, it was a great listen when all is said and done. I can’t imagine revisiting it a whole lot but there are some great moments to take away from all this. GLORIOUS cover art too.
Keepers for the iPod: 21 things I want in a lover, Hands clean, So unsexy, That particular time, You owe me nothing in return