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New Alanis Album Reviewed

Executive Producer, Jam! Showbiz


If nothing else, success has made Alanis Morissette expansive.

Irrepressibly, obsessively, relentlessly, expansive.

Take this tumbling, unpunctuated, and not atypical line from the dark ballad "I Was Hoping", one of the 17 new songs that comprise the breathlessly awaited "Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie":

"It's a cycle really don't you think I'm withdrawing and guilt tripping you I think you're insensitive".

Try singing along to that.

Or how about this mouthful-of-a-stanza, from "Sympathetic Character"?:

"I was afraid of verbal daggers, I was afraid of the calm before the storm, I was afraid for my own bones, I was afraid of your seduction, I was afraid ...", well you get the idea.

It's enough to make you yearn for the compact elegance of "You live, you learn".

In the three years since her third album, "Jagged Little Pill", transformed her from a puffy-haired Canadian disco singer into a bona fide cultural touchstone, Morissette has both survived the tumult of fame and reaped its substantial rewards.

Inevitably, perhaps, "Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie" -- the self-deprecating title provides one of the album's few moments of levity -- reflects both sides of the equation: It chronicles her reaction to (and rejection of) her status as an object of adulation, but it does so from the privileged vantage point of a lengthy spiritual quest.

Profoundly influenced by a recent trip to India, "Infatuation Junkie" is admirably untidy. While the ubiquitous single/video "Thank U" calmly rhymes off a series of personal epiphanies, the hard-edged "Baba" presents a scathing view of what Morissette has characterized as the "duplicity" within India's spiritual world.

Elsewhere, Morissette's anger is every bit as evident here as it was on "Jagged Little Pill", but it's frequently off-set by a new sense of personal responsibilty for putting herself in certain situations in the first place. The aggressive opener, "Front Row", falls squarely into that category, as does the lyrically over-stuffed "Would Not Come".

The weakness in all of this is the ungainly clash between the obvious sincerity and emotional honesty of Morissette's lyrics and what often borders on plain old lazy craftsmanship.

It's the way every line in every verse of "Thank U", for example, begins with the words "How 'bout ..." It's also the repeated application of that stylistic conceit to "Are You Still Mad" (each line starts with "are you still mad"), "That I Would Be Good (ditto, with the words "that I would be good"), or "Would Not Come", whose verses all start with the word "if".

It's an annoying stylistic device that gives the songs immediate impact but also makes them kind of annoying the fifth or sixth time through.

When Morissette breaks out of that template, the results are positively exhilarating. "Can't Not" -- an intense mid-tempo number that was performed extensively on her last tour and which appears here in a radically re-worked version -- hits like a hammer, while the simple, joyful "So Pure" jumps out as the album's most memorable track.

Musically, "Junkie" shows off a slightly more idiosyncratic use of rhythm, along with a less glossy pop sheen than on "Jagged Little Pill". Nothing here, however, should come as a shock to anyone familiar with either "Jagged" or the "Uninvited" single from this summer's "City Of Angels" soundtrack.

Ultimately, "Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie" abounds in ambitious and stimulating ideas.

It's just that you'll have to wade through a considerable number of roadblocks to get to them.

taken from http://www.canoe.ca/JamAlbumsM/