And NOOOW … the end is NEARRRR etc. Time to round up some of the bit and bobs Alanis has popped out over the years to complete my little escapade into A-Mo (that doesn’t really work does it?). Mostly we have movie soundtracks, and the bonus CD from Flavors of Entanglement, but there plenty of others, but a manageable enough number (take notes Kylie). Might as well just get going, in NO PARTICULAR ORDER
07 Madness – Oh, not an amazing one to start with really, but not bad. Could really have done without this being 6 1/2 minutes long, but it doesn’t drag too much. God knows why though, it’s a rather sedate little ballad, with simple instrumentation used to good effect. A repetitive piano riff with a lovely warm background. OK my attention does stray after a while, but … no, sorry I forgot what I was going to say. What am I doing again? I think saying it climaxes near the end is perhaps exaggerating a little, but let’s be kind and say it does.
09 London – You know, I really like this! I have NO idea what she’s going on about, something about a cervix(?!). I think I’d rather not know. But it really reminds me of Pieces of You-era Jewel, particularly in the rather simple chorus and the melody to it. A fair bit of that is the acoustic guitar, it all works for me really. I have to note a lyrics page I looked up to see if I could decipher it, but not only did they leave one line as “My cervix is a long (?)”, they also translated “the steam will smell of eucalyptus in the shower” to “the steam will smell of puke and left us in the shower”! Anyway, puke and cervixes aside, GORGE. Does she sing “My cervix is a long scary dick”?!
07 Orchid – Another one from FOE (along with Madness). It’s not that exciting, but I love when she goes into the higher notes, her voice just sounds so tender and wonderful. To be honest the flower metaphor is stretched a little thin, but it’s a nice enough song. Fitted on the bonus disc at least, I couldn’t see this working in an album without feeling a bit fillery. Nice though.
08 20/20 – Love the weird wind-chimy intro, reminds me of Final Fantasy for some reason. I presume this is about hindsight being 20/20 I guess, quite straightforward. I can get on board with that, I’m a bit of a post-mortem fan when I’ve fucked up. I really like this, feels like a prime bit of Alanis, not sure of its origins though, but wasted as a B-side/rarity in my opinion.
06 Pollyanna Flower – A bit of a rockier offering than most of those I’m going through now. The chorus is a bit of a racket, I’m sure it’s all very raw and whatever, but I’m not really feeling it. Not really sure of the context of the title, is it about her mimsy? I hope so, it’s such a nice phrase to use for that. Feels a bit SFIJ-tinged, though a bit too mainstream rock for that. Just falls between a few stools really, and I’m not in a rush to retrieve it.
09 I Remain – Bang up to date, and the rather unexpected soundtrack song for the Prince of Persia song out a few years ago (which I liked but then it did pander to my penchant for arabs, especially if they look like Jake Gyllenhall dipped in tea). Sounds like everything I’m looking for in a soundtrack song, sweeping, epic and spooky. OK the Arabian Nights schtick is laid on thick enough to make it resemble an Eastern European Eurovision entry in places, but I like it. The chorus is a bit indistinguishable but decent. I DO love the I REMAAIIIINNNNN bits towards the end, really gives me chills for some reason.
07 The Guy who leaves – Third FoE bonus track, and has a taste of that squelchy dancier sound that was used to such great effect on the parent album. Actually this doesn’t QUITE feel as dark as those, and in places it’s a bit too poppy, I could ALMOST imagine it as a Britney song at times. I suppose that’s not a bad thing but it’s a little jarring coming from Alanis (at least after 1995 it is). Can’t say the song is up to much though, but it’s bouncy enough to stop me getting bored.
05 Still – Ugh, did I hear a sitar? I can’t be sure, but I might as well have, it’s all got a bit of that feeling to it, not a recipe for love sadly. The chorus is a bit of a wet lettuce too. If she’s delivering lines like “I am your fury and your elation” as if she’s reading a shopping list, I can’t really get on board. She’s done a lot better than this, I’m glad this track was lost.
08 Let’s do it, let’s fall in love – A bit of a jump now, to this 80+year old song spruced up for the movie De-Lovely. I thought that might be a bit at odds to Alanis, but I find it really sweet. Such a strange song too, I love some of the weird shit here “even sentimental centipeeeeeedes do it”. Anyway, jaunty and sunny, and she really sounds like she’s into it, which is all I want. Have to try to stop thinking I’m listening to a Victoria Wood song though.
10 Uninvited – OMGZ *dies*. Even 12 years later this still has such a power about it. Used in the partly-amazing soundtrack to City of Angels, this was a big smash for her, DESERVED. I think it’s one of those songs that was never a hit her (or indeed ever released) but has seeped into the public consciousness. Obviously the Freemasons version brought it to the fore a few years ago (love that too). Just feels like such a huge song, the string section working overtime to steep this in HIGH DRAMA. Put shortly, I LOVE THIS SONG *jumps on sofa*.
08 Mercy – Oh one of her well-loved hits, it had to be included on The Collection (ERM WHAT?). So whatever the fuck The Prayer Cycle is/was, she did a song for that. In fact she did two, I’ve just learned. Oh well. It’s quite lovely and symphonic, but it’s not exactly a karaoke classic. I don’t even know which language she’s singing. But it’s quite uplifiting, and bits of it remind me of Bright Eyes from Watership Down, and that’s no bad thing.
08 Break – Don’t know where this is from, but BAM, it goes right into a crashing commercial guitar epic. Seriously though, why did this get lost? Reminds me of Garbage [/lazy comparison]. That chorus is really something “Who am I KIDDING? I’m not some MOTHER THERESA”, LOVE THAT. All squealy rock noises etc, probably not that ‘real’ but FUCK ‘EM. She’s obviously getting a bit stressy, and that’s how I like my A-Mo.
06 Symptoms – The world is a terrible place isn’t it? With their bombs and their guns and their guns and their bombs, and racial scapegoats etc. I’m guessing post 9/11? I mean sure she can sing about the world’s pain and how it’s all going wrong, but please give it a bit of a HOOK, there’s a good girl *smacks ass*. Now put on your knickers and go make me a cup of tea. Sorry, I had to amuse myself during that song, it’s not one of her best.
07 Limbo No More – Another FoE bonus track now, not a bad one either. Well no great either, for a song about limbo she hasn’t really raised the bar (teehee *klunk*). She’s felt a bit adrift evidently, and she’s sick of it. She seems to sort herself out by the end, but I’ve long lost interest sadly…
09 My Humps – Ha! I love this so fucking much. I’m a bit hit-and-miss with Black Eyed Peas, but My Humps is a disgusting chav EPIC that I love for its totally brazen approach to singing about tits and ass. Kind of like when you just fancy one of those rather questionable burgers from the market, they’ve got their own grubby appeal. Anyway this was an AMAZING cover too, done in the regular Alanis angsty style, it’s not turning the song on its head, it’s just setting the grubby lyrics to wholly inappropriate music. AND THE VIDEO!!! I love Alanis.
08 Bring on the tequila – WTF?! So the last track from the FoE bonus disc, and what the hell is going on? This just sounds like a totally different artist, but really distinctively Alanis somewhere. She’s spewing the usual psychobabble that doesn’t fit very well to the rhythm, and while it’s quite subdued it’s almost as close as Alanis would ever get to a cover of “Here come the girrrrls”. You really need to hear this one, it’s quite addictive and pleasing somehow, once you’ve got over the initial shock.
08 Crazy – The insanity continues, and not just by the name of the track, but just by the rather random choice of cover. Granted we’ve just done My Humps but that was an April Fools joke, Crazy was the LEAD SINGLE from the GREATEST HITS. I suppose with hindsight this sounds a bit more fitting to the sound she would later come out with a few years later, but it was a bit of a headfuck for me at the time. I mean it’s a good song anyway, I just don’t understand. Obviously the GH was a total disaster, I’m unsure if it was sort of MEANT like that, I’m sure she could get a decent proper GH together rather than the odds and sods she ended up releasing (Mercy? Let’s do it?!). Just felt a bit like one of those petrol-station budget GH discs just going by the tracklist. I can’t listen to this song without thinking she’s singing AMOEBAAA AMOEBAAAA instead of Maybe … probably just me though.
09 These are the thoughts – Time to deal with the track we first saw on the MTV unplugged album, now we have a nice grammatically correct studio version. In all honest it’s pretty much the same, from the rather unhinged piano intro, through the warm introductions of the various layers of production. The delivery is bizarre, just laying the syllables like bricks, regardless of where the words start and end. Reminds me of that “Danger men at work” song they made us do at school (basically repeating the sentence Danger Men At Work over and over to the tune of Knees up Mother Brown … what WAS that teaching us?!). But I love the last minute, the climax, it just builds beautifully.
08 Wunderkind – Another soundtrack song to finish us off, this time from the first Narnia song. I love the feeling of those movies, and while this isn’t quite as gorgeous and touching as Regina Spektor’s The Call from Prince Caspian, this is still quite lovely. I always thought the “kind” bit of the title was pronounce like “kindle”, so I keep focusing on that for some reason. I love the bridge, that piano bit is really lovely. Not really her best soundtrack song but pretty. Bit of a damp squib to finish on.
Well that’s IT! I’m DONE. About fucking time too. No not really, I’m really pleased I’ve done this. I’ve always been a fan of Alanis but never really put in the hours to properly loon about her. In fairness I’m not sure I’ll ever be mega-excited to hear more albums but I’m interested enough to still listen. I just want her to come back with a smash, these diminishing returns are breaking my heart. Anyway, as one of the more commercial (read “successful”) banshees, she’s really taken some big risks instead of chasing an easy buck, so HATS OFF to her. It hasn’t been AS rewarding as the Kate Bush pilgrimage, mainly because this was reasonably familiar territory for me already, but I’ve found a renewed appreciation for the old harridan, so I guess it’s all good. I just hope it’s been at the very least a decent diversion for some of you!
Keepers for the iPod: London, 20/20, I remain, Let’s do it, Uninvited, My Humps, Bring on the tequila, Crazy, These are the thoughts, Wunderkind.