More than being renowned as one of the better female singer/songwriters of her generation, Alanis Morissette is better known for being the angry white girl who shared her brokenhearted frustrations with all the world. And as that ire has subsided, so has some of Morissettes notoriety, but that doesnt change the fact that the woman is talented, nor does it change the fact that there are a generation of angry little pop tarts who aspire to be like here (read: Avril Lavigne). Much like Tori Amos, part of where Morissette fails to reach people is that sometimes her songwriting is a bit aloof, a bit too complicated for people to want to sit down and process, which causes alienation between the listener and the artist.
Morissettes fourth album, So-Called Chaos is full of sweet melodies and superbly beautiful music but there are few tracks that just grab you and pull you in. When Morissette is good, shes really good, which can be evidenced on a song like Spineless. Perhaps the most vitriolic offering from So-Called Chaos, theres a middle-eastern undercurrent that runs through the track (as it does through many of the tracks), where Morissette promises to: I'll be subservient and spineless/I'll lick your boots as empty shells/I'll be opinion less and silent/I'll be the prettiest appendage to ever lose herself, those are the kind of lyrics that come to mind when the average music listener thinks of Morissette and while I respect any artists need and want to evolve, shes at her best when shes being facetious, smart and witty.
א Easy Steps quickened pace reveals a sort of twisted self-help program of perhaps some of the foibles Morissette has made in her own life. And It would be remiss to speak of someone as clever as MOrissette and not reference her own words when they are so appropriate to describing her genius: how to stay paralyzed by fear of abandonment/how to defer to men in solve-able predicaments/how to control someone to be a carbon copy of you. Its those moments of brilliance that shows that although Morissette has moved on in a lot of ways, she is still very capable of placing her tongue firmly in her cheek.
Doth I Protest Too Much is a look at self-consciousness and insecurity at its very finest. At this point its important to say that while the album moves along and a decent pace, there are not a lot of great vocal moments where as a listener you can stop and say wow, her voice is so x,y and z. And that is generally the scheme overall, that the vocals are not mind blowing. Theyre fine and good and safe and predictable but not revolutionary in any sense of the word.
The album does have a bit of richness musically. On Knees Of My Bees (as well as a few other tracks), there is a strong sitar presence, that adds a new dimension to the undercurrent of guitars and drums. This Grudge is soft and reflective, it is the polar opposite of You Oughtta Know - the song that put Morissette on the map. It listens like an apology to the man who has been on the receiving end of most of Morissettes musical rage and if, as a listener youve followed her artistry perhaps it is a resolve to be happy, to not sing about angry or hurt or rejected or any of the things that come to mind when thinking of Morissette, even when it sounds/feels so good.
- Final Thoughts -
Essentially, So-Called Chaos is a therapy in an album. It is self-reflection, it is narcissism, it is philosophizing, it is introspective it is thinking out loud it is Alanis Morissette doing what she does best, something which none of her contemporaries are able to match or surpass. While its not necessarily an easy listen, there is a lot of great material here, which needs to be consumed slowly and digested even slower.
And having said that, Morissette fans will generally be pleased with this effort. Newer fans can definitely begin here and move backwards, and perhaps thats the better move simply because one will not have the musical baggage to compare this album too. It appears that Morissette is taking small-steps at freeing herself from anger and resentment, so far so good.