I want to be naked running through the streets
I want to invite this so-called chaos
That you think I dare not be
I want to be weightless flying through the air
I want to drop all these limitations
But the shoes upon my feet
I have a shockingly low amount of reviewed Alanis Morissette albums under my belt, and that is tragic considering how she's one of the most interesting artists of the past twenty years. Alanis is a singer-songwriter who always has something cool come out, regardless of whether or not it's going to be commercially successful. She reminds me of a Canadian Björk-- none of her albums since the late 90s have really blown up the charts, but she has such a strong and loyal fanbase that keeps her in commission, pushing her to always release something new. Even though she is no longer the chick who wrote the famed Jagged Little Pill, she is still a great energy in the music industry, right up the industrial-mish-mash (and awesome) disc Flavors of Entanglement. But when I run through all of her albums, ignoring her bubblegum pop debut and its subsequent follow-up, the one that juts out and rubs fans the wrong way is easy So-Called Chaos, a moderately successful Alanis record that was well-promoted and poorly received by countless people. Ironically enough, this is the album that finally got me to sit out and listen to her music. I remember when the posters were hung up around Sam Goody, and I also remember when the leading single was being played on VH1's Top 10 Video Countdown (remember that show?). It's promotion, though, was hollow and a cheap knock-off of her breakthrough album, and everything about it seemed to scream: I'm finally giving you Jagged Little Pill II: Electric Boogaloo! But when I turn the album on, I'm greeted with some great rock songs, pop songs, and overall a compact and enjoyable Alanis album. I do not understand particularly why this album seems to be universally hated by fans, as there are some real gems here.
Alanis has never really lived down her Thank U video or her angry-rocker-chick attitude, but she has always been a positive woman who also appealed to those outside of the 14 - 17 year old bracket. So-Called Chaos is a slightly introspective album that once again deals with relationships and a wavering self-esteem, which seem to be common themes in Morissette's releases; but she does it in such a classy way that each time she releases an album, it feels brand new (much like Madonna's theme of self-expression). None of the singles were huge hits (no duh), but some of them are pure hit material, like the power-rock Eight Easy Steps, a song from the point of view of a self-help pamphlet, except it's waaay cattier than that: "How to hate women when you're supposed to be a feminist / How to play all pious when you're really a hypocrite." Alanis backs up her success with proving to the listener that is still an amazing songwriter and can still deliver a powerful punch. Morissette's vocals seem to be in the restless vain of her breakthrough, but this time they are quite produced and slick: just listen to the catchy and haunting acoustic track Out is Through, which was essentially re-imagined on Flavors as a fan-favorite Underneath (no, there is not direct link aside from theme). The songs that stick out from this album are those that are sung with a smirk, like the powerful title-track that has a distorted backing track that feels very much like a musical tug-of-war: go nuts, don't go nuts, let it out, keep it in...explode!
The closest Alanis will ever come to writing and releasing a "diddy" comes in the form of Knees of My Bees, which, though a song anybody would expect from her, is actually really catchy and fun. It's been hated on by just about everybody, but there's like when Alanis is clearly having fun with her material. Everything was an airplay success upon its release, but I think her image annoyed people: where was the chick beating up lousy ex-boyfriends with guitars and microphone stands? Maybe she was never really that girl to begin with (maybe that was Avril Lavigne beating up skater bois at the mall with pool noodles). Anywho, it's a catchy pop song, but it's not the most interesting of all Alanis tracks, which is why I think it didn't become the success it was released to be. Self-reflective rock songs Excuses and Doth I Protest To Much are easily more interesting and way more catchy. This record is one of Alanis's shorter albums with only ten shorts, but it's a compact release with a lot to sink your teeth into. You can easily pick this record up for under 10 bucks at any used record store (probably around 3 bucks), and it's certainly worth the purchase. Alanis didn't take a step back on this project, but she also didn't take a huge leap forward. But dang, she has something special.
Don't believe the hype; this album is a winner on all fronts. One of my favorite Morissette releases. Dare I say that I listen to this way more than Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie?
01. Eight Easy Steps [5 Stars]
02. Out is Through [5 Stars]
03. Excuses [4 Stars]
04. Doth I Protest to Much [4 Stars]
05. Knees of My Bees [5 Stars]
06. So-Called Chaos [5 Stars]
07. Not All Me [3.5 Stars]
08. This Grudge [3.5 Stars]
09. Spineless [4 Stars]
10. Everything [4 Stars]
BEST: Out is Through
WORST: This Grudge
SCORE: 4 STARS (4.3- )
2002 - Under Rug Swept
2004 - So-Called Chaos