Sunday, May 3, 2015

CD Odyssey Disc 732: Alanis Morissette

I’m just back from watching “Avengers: Age of Ultron” at the theatre. I rarely go to the movies anymore, mostly because I find all the talkers annoying, but I try to never miss a Marvel superhero movie.

I grew up with Marvel and the Avengers was my favourite comic series. Getting to see them come to life on the big screen is a big deal for the kid in me. Hell, the adult in my thinks it is pretty nifty too.  

Disc 732 is…. Jagged Little Pill
Artist: Alanis Morissette

Year of Release: 1995

What’s up with the Cover? In the foreground a lipsticked Alanis turns her head skyward – behold she is grass, she is nature. Behind a professionally styled Alanis looks contemplative despite the fact that the sun appears to have gone supernova and is obliterating the back of her head with its brightness.

How I Came To Know It: In 1995 I was 25 years old and did not live in a cave. I therefore knew this album, which was so huge that if you know someone over 40, and that person has more than 100 CDs, this is probably one of them – or was at one time before they went digital.

How It Stacks Up:  Alanis has eight studio albums, but this is the only one I’ve got, so I can’t stack it up. One does not make a stack.

Ratings: 3 stars but almost 4

“Jagged Little Pill” is a solid record; never too hot, never too cold. However, in 1995 it was considerably more than that – it felt like the soundtrack to the confusion swirling in the head of every twenty-something in North America.

The record straddles the worlds of pop and rock, making it friendly for radio, but with enough of an edge that you can feel appropriately rebellious in liking it. It is a smart combination from a woman who had started her career as a pop starlet and was determined to reinvent herself.

The first couple of songs seem determined to establish her rock credentials, with the grungy “All I Really Want” and the famously nasty “You Oughta Know.” “You Oughta Know” was an instant break-up anthem. With provocative lyrics like “Does she go down on you in a theatre?” and “Every time I scratch my nails down someone else’s back/I hope you feel it” it is probably number two all-time in sheer vitriol. First place still goes to Marianne Faithfull’s “Why’d ya do it?

Morissette’s singing is a little flat throughout, but her delivery is heartfelt and her distinctive rasp and ability to stay in the pocket make up for it. The imperfections in her delivery actually make it sound better.

The lyrics are solid for the most part, but they spoke to me a lot more deeply when I was 25. Now they can feel a little too much like a creative writing class assignment at times. Also, the song “Ironic” is full of stuff (rain on your wedding day, good advice you didn’t take, etc.) that just isn’t ironic. That is annoying.

This is an honest album, though, and that honesty shines through. Morissette has something to say, and she says it well. “Right Through You” is a solid indictment of the music industry that sought to pre-package her image in previous years and is now being called out. “Head Over Feet” isn’t my favourite song, but it has a genuine sweetness to it that shows Morissette’s vulnerability on an album where she mostly works hard at being tough. I appreciated that she took a song to basically admit to it.

When I first heard this album, I couldn’t get enough of it, and I would have reviewed it much more positively back then. Like a lot of people I played it to the point of over-playing it, and as a result it has sat fairly neglected on my CD shelf for a lot of years. It was nice to rediscover it. It was like running into an old flame. Nice to catch up in the supermarket lineup, and even if the passion isn’t there anymore, you are still reminded about why you liked her.

Best tracks: All I Really Want, You Oughta Know, Hand in My Pocket, Right Through You

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