Now it’s time to finally finish off the studio albums with this all-but-forgotten effort. I bought this more as a duty purchase at the time and only gave it a few cursory listens. Now I’ve given it more of a chance, I can’t say it’s going down as one of the classics, but it’s not a total washout. It doesn’t quite have the fire of JLP, complexity of SFIJ, or the instant appeal of URS and SCC, but it is at least a foray into a different sound, courtesy of Guy Sigsworth.
07 Citizen of the planet – Hrmm… while I expect a certain level of hippy Earth-mother guff from Alanis, this lays it on a bit too thick. I just find the verses taking themselves a bit too seriously, but we do get a bit more energy in the chorus. It’s rather rockier than we got for most of SCC but somehow feels a bit lacking. I can’t quite put my finger on where, but I find my attention drifting a bit. I just think back to tracks like “Baba” and just wonder where it went astray.
08 Underneath – Lead single now, and I suppose that explains a little why this project didn’t quite get off the ground, or at least followed the trajectory of her successive sales performances. It’s quite nice really, without wanting to damn it with faint praise too much. It’s not really a smash radio single at all (though in a ridiculous twist, at least according to Wiki, it went DIAMOND in Brazil). The chorus is pleasant but I can’t say I quite follow it, it’s just a nice noise. Ugh why am I finding it so hard finding something nice to say?
09 Straitjacket – Now THIS is more like it, a pulsing beat from the outside and a bit of OOMPH (and a swearword, OMG), maybe this is the root of the problem, maybe this song is about me. I feel like happy Alanis doesn’t quite hit the spot with me, and I won’t be happy until she is in a straitjacket. The production is exciting as an Alanis fan, and she is pissed off which always leads to more engaging material (in general). A highlight for me.
08 Versions of Violence – More interesting production to make me go “Oh, maybe this isn’t going to be a borefest album”. Plenty of drama here, verging on melodrama of Evanescence proportions but thankfully with a less earsplitting voice. The production does swamp her a little bit, I’m having trouble making out what she’s singing but the chorus is rather wonderful, a big (hot) mess of dirty basslines and strings. I do still have a chance to love her tone of voice in the middle 8.
08 Not as we – Another confusing choice of a single, though as a ballad it is rather lovely, and a return to the rather damaged and emotional ballads of Alanis past. I see it was on some TV soundtracks, does sound like that sort of thing that goes down well in the current climate of usage of ballads at emotional points of Greys Anatomy or whatever. I like listening to it, but again I’m not really engaging with it, it’s just a nice simple track. It just might as well be in a different language.
06 In praise of the vulnerable man – A rather UGH title for a song, and doesn’t disappoint in being a rather lifeless mid-tempo “Happy Alanis” snoozer. Who was in charge of this project? Apparently this was the second single in Europe, madness! I am just left totally apathetic after this. Yes I’m happy that she’s happy, but if this is the result musically, then NO THANKS.
09 Moratorium – Back in spooky soundscape land now, thank goodness. These moments really trigger my interest so much more than her slow decline into mid-tempo balladry that will surely end in a Country/New Age album. This time we swap the Evanescence dramatics to something a bit more subtle, and oddly I feel like this could easily be a Linkin Park song, am I crazy? Seems like Happy Alanis hasn’t quite worked through all her issues, and quite selfishly I approve. She gets to use her thesaurus again, hence another VERBOSE onslaught producing another album title. It’s a bit of an odd one, but all the better for it. She should have declared a moratorium years ago given the woes it seems to cause her.
05 Torch – Back to the blah, I feel like I’m being generous with the marks for this album, given that this isn’t really doing much for me apart from providing backing music. From an artist that produced Jagged Little Pill, being reduced to ambient accompaniment to my spreadsheet dayjob is a massive comedown. My general feeling was that this album wasn’t that bad, but I don’t think I had to sit here and really concentrate on songs like Torch, which I think is where the wheels are falling off. YAWN.
08 Giggling again for no reason – Horrible title but I always find this a rather lovely surprise. A shimmery intro into a wonderfully uptempo section (not sure if this is the chorus or what). This is what the album needed more of, BEATS. The best tracks have them, and it’s only when the album slows down that it really becomes a chore. Not my favourite Alanis song vocally, the melody is all over the place, but I like the sentiment. I like to think of it as a follow-on from So-Called Chaos (the song), like she’s finally run away from it, and is dancing naked or whatever she likes doing. Maybe that’s just me though, it’s a sweet song.
07 Tapes – More angsty now, maybe this is more of an example of what I want the downtempo tracks to be. Unlike Torch this has a bit more emotion to it, though I feel it’s a bit of a watered down version of Excuses from SCC. Despite this, there’s enough substance to make it memorable, and I can at least understand what she’s going about. Does make me sad to think she feels like this, but then again I don’t want to hear Happy Alanis so much. I think a few more albums of therapy, then a happy retirement will suit both parties.
06 Incomplete – Well at least it isn’t Utopia, no campfire chanting here, but still rather saccharine. I like the verses, they are cute and hopeful, but the chorus they lead into is a bit flat. The pieces are there but it doesn’t quite work for me. Still, it’s not the worst song here, and I’m happy to go out on an upbeat track at least, there’s enough doom and gloom on here for me to allow her this at least.
So that’s that. I can’t say I’m brimming with hope about what the next studio album is going to be like. I don’t think I can take a fully chilled out Alanis, for me she is and always will/should be a banshee. She doesn’t have the same sort of mental unhingedness that Kate and Tori had at their cores, so who knows. Let’s just remember the good times. A reinvention as a dancier artist would be very welcome, considering she seemed to be leaning a little that way with this album. Fingers crossed…
Keepers for the iPod: Underneath, Straitjacket, Moratorium, Giggling again for no reason.