It’s the good advice that you just couldn’t take. It’s 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife. Albums these days, that is. Life without good old ‘90s music is like rain on your wedding day. Thankfully, Alanis Morisette has heard my cry and, ironically, released a new album on August 28. This is her first album since her 2008 “Flavors of Entanglement.” That album wasn’t bad, but it was a little adult contemporary for my tastes and it went under the radar.
With this new offering, “Havoc and Bright Lights,” Morissette is all grown up, and she’s got the wisdom to prove it. Since 2008, she has gotten married and had a child, and presumably got over the guy in “You Oughta Know.” Her lyrics still read like a diary into her innermost soul, but the material is distinctly more mature and thought out. We are seeing into a new part of Morissette’s life set to entrancing melodies and the powerful voice she’s loved for.
The album is well balanced and features Indian style beats mixed with sensual synth tones to create a decidedly seductive sound that, when mixed with her cutthroat lyrics and vocals, is hypnotic.
The maturity that she seems to have grown into balances the angry woman of “Jagged Little Pill,” but Morissette isn’t letting that whole motherhood and domestic bliss thing get in the way of what needs to be said. She still has a no holds barred approach to writing and no one is spared this time. In her feminist track, “Woman Down,” she takes the direct route to calling out a misogynistic jerk of a guy who’s always gotten away with throwing women to the ground, verbally or physically. The lyrics read like a textbook explanation of how our culture not only creates, but coddles the men who will later see debasing women in the cycle of violence. The nameless man first sees his mother folding to the abuse of his father and his behavior is condoned, then his sister following suite with no other example to base her behavior off of. “She took her cues from the climate/and never knew another way,” Morissette croons, over revolution inciting beats. Next is his lover, who takes everything he gives her and begins to treat her even worse, pushing the boundaries and seeing how much she can take to the point that everything about her makes him angry at her. Finally, enter his daughter, “A stranger to being debased/She has a new lease and limit/On the abuse she’ll tolerate” and breaks the cycle of silence. In between the story, the chorus calls out not only the men who the song describes, but the women who point fingers at feminists. The battle cry of “Calling all woman haters/We’ve lowered the bar on the/Behavior that we will take—come on now/Calling all lady haters/Why must you vilify us/ Are you willing to clean the slate,” pretty much sums up the current feminist movement. It is refreshing and oh-so-Alanis. This is a song people will be talking about.
She shows a softer side as well, especially in “Guardian,” which is still power packed, but describes her loyal love for someone who has been by her side, and always will be. She could be talking about her son, but the lyrics also lend themselves to anyone who she sees herself growing old with, like her husband and best friends. It’s a feeling anyone who’s ever had a best friend can understand.
Overall, “Havoc and Bright Lights” is no “Jagged Little Pill,” but why should it be? It is a mature album, but it keeps the attitude and incredible passion that made the former so great. It is definitely worth a listen for any one who’s ever listened to “You Oughta Know” on a post breakup loop.