Over a decade has passed since Alanis Morissette burst into the music world with her massive début record and now coming round for her fifth studio album, Alanis can enjoy relative creative freedom having sunk back into more relative obscurity. Of course the album is still a big event but a 30 million selling album can only happen once.
This album features a new sound from Alanis and its the first real change of tune for her. Teamed up with Guy Sigworth, the electronic musical guru, this album has almost as much in common with Frou Frou, Imogen Heap and more electro-rock bands than Alanis’ previous efforts. However change is a good thing and this is a very strong album.
“Citizen of the Planet” opens with various techno wizardry before sounding like a rockier version of Frou Frou’s “Psychobabble”. The guitars and angry vocals are still there but everything is a bit more zooped up for the electronic pop world. The string arrangement also really helps push this gritty opener on. “Underneath” is great crowd pleaser showing that Alanis has lost none of her skill crafting a pop rock hit. Shimmering guitars, flicking beats and synthesisers are the order of the day and I’m glad for it. A lovely uplifting number.
“Straitjacket” follows with more harsher, grizzly bass fused alt-dance track! I wouldn’t have thought I’d have seen the day when I’d be bouncing around to Alanis singing quite bitterly on an electro-dance song. Its here when you realise that this change in sound for the album has breathed new life into the girl and she’s really on form. “Version of Violence” has a massive bass line spewing out at you with lots of typical dramatic chorus lines to get you hooked.
It’s not until you hit “Not As We” that a more traditional Morissette song comes along but this is piano based, heartfelt and delicately beautiful. There is a particular vulnerability in her voice that really makes you sit up and listen. Astounding.
“In Praise of the Vulnerable Man” returns to more electro-fun with a more upbeat crowd pleaser that wouldn’t be out of place on a Madonna album! “Moratorium” takes things back to the darker side quickly with an almost drum and bass tune. Of course it’s been tailored completely towards the mystical dark side of Alanis however its such a far cry from her earlier work you have to applaud her for taking a new direction whether you like it or not!
“Torch” is the lighter waving track on the album. Slow, dramatic and like a song used for a charity advert, its grand in scale but simple enough to catch onto and sing with. A perfect mould of acoustic and electric too if I may say so and that’s down to Sigworth’s excellent work.
“Giggling Again For No Reason” is catchy, fast and fantastic. This needs to be a single and deserves mass radio airplay. There’s something about this song that makes me feel like I’m flying high and the happy subject note doesn’t mean bad song – it means take a break, relax and enjoy. “Tapes” is an ethereal track that benefits from chugging guitars in the chorus and stillness in the verses – a great juxtaposition which makes the song stand out. The album closes on “Incomplete” which is acoustic guitar driven but surrounded by all kinds of zips and booms.
It’s here where the deluxe version helps as you have five more tracks on a bonus disc and these are just up to the same fantastic standard. “Orchid” is beautiful track that flows like water with a perfect harmony of acoustic guitar and electronic beats. “The Guy Who Leaves” is more abstract and unusual with a bite to it. There’s always a certain discord to the bitter songs and the chorus on this track in particular is full of it. “Madness” is a much needed subdued track that is piano driven with a background beat. Its beautiful as much as it is bitter-sweet and that’s what makes it special on this album. “Limbo No More” is a more slower dramatic piece with lots of orchestration and synth work before the massively happy “On The Tequila” pops up like a summer heat beach party song. It works very well and fits the feel of the album well.
The new sound suits Alanis’ vocals very well. There’s emotion there but its controlled. I can see this album winning lots of new fans as this is a very accessible album to get into but I can see many of her old fans not enjoying the uplifting songs. I have to say that’s their loss. This album encompasses most emotions – there is a fire there even if its got warm silky smooth synthesisers all over it. I thoroughly enjoyed this album that’s the first time since Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie was released that I’ve really sat down and enjoyed one of Alanis’ records first listen through. Highly recommended.