When your boyfriend runs off with a Hollywood blonde turned Tom Waits covers artist, it must be hard to find your feet again. Thankfully Alanis Morissette is no wilting wallflower and her fifth international album, guided by producer and co-writer Guy Sigsworth, is a mass of musical experiments and heartbreak.
Opening track Citizens Of The Planet’s Asian percussion laces a dark and broody atmosphere and makes a brave opener. It sets the scheme of Morissette’s range for the rest of the album.
Straitjacket gives her emotional rage some space. The melodrama of the lyrics might make the effort a little disappointing and lines such as “One day I’ll introduce myself and you’ll see you’ve not met me” are oversimplified. However, the odd addition of the dance beat makes for an interesting commercial addition. The ghostly Versions Of Violence also stretched boundaries with its pious sanctimonious sounds.
While there’s an oddly familiar feel to much of what follows, the simplicity of Not As We is the best evocation on the whole album and a time where Morissette can bring another new aspect of her growing personality to the fore. She manages at once to be hopeful, in mourning solemn and vulnerable. In Praise Of The Vulnerable Man takes into heart the softer side of the less fair sex. “You are the greatest man I ever met, you, the stealth setter of new precedents.” She is doubtlessly open and even soulful, but listening to a whole album of it can render one impatient.
Torch is an enormous and mounting message of longing for her lost lover. The orchestral movement is warm and intimidating with just enough emptiness to complement the sentiment that she has tried to communicate. On the other hand, Giggling For No Reason, is a fairly innocuous track but one that is thankfully an anomaly on the album. Morissette does not sound comfortable singing the song and the reduced scale of the vocal gives the illusion of a weakness and fickleness that few will find believable. Aside from anything is doesn’t sound terribly chirpy.
Moratorium, a drum and bass inflected, synth mission statement from which the titular line is taken, takes the words out of listeners’ mouths. Declaring “a respite from the toil of liaison, a breather from the flavors of entanglement” must be thoughts passing through the minds of some part of the audience as we are stuck again in the grief of the recent split. If only we were, at times, more caught in the crossfire, an experience we have been given by Morissette in earlier albums, it could be more consistently engaging.
The final track, Incomplete, is her life wish exposed, and it is surprisingly conventional. Ironically enough this completes the album and it is a very fine note to end on.
If Alanis lacks breadth in terms of her subject matter, and she does, she makes up for it in the rich variety of styles that have influenced each track. From wall of sound through acoustic to Depeche Mode-esque electronic rock and light pop fayre, she commands them all. The sum of the parts is a country mile better than anything by a lady named red. Ironic, dontcha think?