Tuesday, 17 June 2008
The More Tragic The Better
Throughout her "tumultuous" decade-long career of euphoric babbling, music has served as a hedge against Alanis being a willing fool (if anyone wants me to elaborate on my hedge theory - check out the video to Thank U for proof). She quite obviously writes to keep herself sane, to avoid any sense of being outwitted by an emotion she can't control or describe using the medium of song, and when a Hollywood shitcom actor takes time out from his busy sit-ups schedule to cheat on her, Alanis just knows this, okay? If you listen to her new album, the fact that she knows her fiance dumped her gradually begins to seep through, much the same way the unzipping bassline of Straight Jacket kills off any white picket fence dreams with the defensive growl "I don't know who you're talking to with such fucking disrespect" before relishing the twisted behaviour with "this shit's making me crazy". However, she may only be ordering a Pizza - 3 tracks in and we just don't know what is up with her yet this time.
Like her mile-long hair, Flavours requires some initial untangling before it flows, and opener Citizen of The Planet is more knotted than Joan 'Gollum' Collins combing out a wig husband Percy put in the washing machine by mistake. The dense recipe recital is a misplaced murky turkey, merely serving to highlight a return to the familiar decorative sound of 1998's Junkie album. What else is on the menu?
More inviting is the graceful yet anthemic first single Underneathe, which is in awe and astonished with still moist tear-stained recovery, whilst the baton-change of producer duties is already apparant as Guy Sigsworth provides her most hypnotic setting since the tinkling-focus plunge of Thank U. The jangly ballad is tender and cautious and she bows to a bigger explanation, revisiting the theme of soaring bender Joining You.
Soggy tampon Not As We is a heartbreaking piano ballad test-driving a new found restraint to her vocal range. The odd sensation continues on In Praise of The Vulnerable Man, a sunkissed relation to the Sugababes' New Year. Each verse begins with her singing "you" as if struggling to breathe or not shout, like an accusation suddenly escaped as she contines "... are the greatest man I've ever given head to in a theatre" or something. There is also a dissarming echo of Deetah's 1998 pop-rap gem Relax.
On track Moratorium, Alanis really should remember to close her fridge door - chills creep into every corner, with an emotionally-broken narrative similar to The Couch. The atmospheric arrangements could almost be lifted from the film The Day After Tomorrow - I do hope Jake Gyllenhaal never dumped her too, which he probably has no idea about anyway. The chorus tinkers like a disco in the morgue causing danceloor cramp - the body count is presumably her ex-boyfriends whereby she "declares a war on failed relationships". Close that fridge, Alanis!
A bleeding sky hovers over the singer on the foreboding Versions of Violence, a gravity-defying hot air floats with cathedral chanting before something scratches and the searing chorus is worthy of her best torrid screachers from her first two albums. The marathon chorus of Torch puts more strain on an already well-weathered emotional landscape, and is the perfect counterpart for the gushing sadness of her crestfallen verses. It's clear there is no sprint to the finish here.
Conversely, Alanis finds pace as a burning sunset treacles through on Giggling Again For No Reason, an atypical divine rush of sighing adrenaline. The shimmering flutter activates an ascent to the albums highest peak of melody, a horizontal speed into blinding white light.
Incomplete has a deliberately unconcinving chirpiness to it that suggests Alanis doesn't really believe that she'll be one of those "30th anniversary" ladies and would rather enjoy her own personal pursuits of discovery. The chorus relinquishes the appeal of Stepford-esque bliss and is much more satisfying as a consequence.
Overall, the pureness to her vocal is a relevation to behold - by holding back she has much more impact and resonance like never before. A sincere clarity unravels throughout tracks 2-11 into a beguiling abandon that is all her own collision, coralling rage and an elegance of temperament into the proper setting.
Giggling Again For No Reason
In Praise of The Vulnerable Man