It is hard to believe that Alanis Morissette is on album number eight with her most recent release, Havoc and Bright Lights, but it is true. She is a completely different person from her 1995 monster release of Jagged Little Pill. She was a woman scorned and every verse was seething with anger and a slight touch of sexiness. Jagged Little Pill was easily her high water mark and has not been even remotely touched since. Even the acoustic version of that classic release, while very well done, was missing the anger that the original had.
As far as her early days go, an argument could be made to say that the music scene was looking for Alanis Morissette. Her unabashed confessional approach to the lyrics and raw intensity was something missing from femals vocalists in the 90s. There were other artists that could have taken that opportunity and ran with it, but Morissette was the one that became adored by music fans. Courtney Love was more intense – perhaps to a fault. PJ Harvey had just as much talent, but was probably too over the top for most people. Tori Amos was just as raw, but probably too poetic. Björk was insanely creative, but never resonated with the fans like Morissette did. Sarah McLachlan was almost the polar opposite of Morissette by embracing that loving feeling. Morissette simply shocked the world and was instantly embraced by most of us.
In regards to the more recent Morissette, she is no longer a tortured soul and is plenty happy with her life and a woman and mother. Good for her – not so good for us though. Her recent work is full of plenty of hints of greatness, but is always lacking that punch. I will say that I am a sucker for Morissette’s voice and love watching her live. Her manuerisms are strange, but cute at the same time. I really do enjoy seeing how happy she has become because you could not help but feel sorry for her back in the 90s.
With the release of Havoc and Bright Lights, we already know that the old days are behind her, so we have to take what we can from her. She is one of my favorite female vocalists and has never lost that power behind her voice. The problem is not the voice. It is the songs themselves.
The album opens with Guardian, which is pretty pedestrian, but has some potential. The riffs are not as gloomy as her music has been in the past, and there is a little too much keyboard work on this track, but once you here her voice, you know that the song has potential. The chorus is pretty catchy and sweet.
After the opening track, we are treated to something a little different with Woman Down, but with way more effects than I would like to hear from one of her songs. The lyrics hint at a little anger, but is still a pretty happy song. This is another one with a catchy chorus. The third track, Til You, sounds like something straight out of the Boyz II Men catalog. This is definitely not for me. I thought that I would be more into this one simply because of Morissette’s voice, but it just did not work for me. Similar to this track, there is also Empathy, which just does not work at all.
Celebrity is a strange track. At first listen, I thought that it was a snoozefest, but with more listens, it started to grow on me. It is rather busy for a Morissette song, but works somewhat well. Lens is another song that grew on me, but is really too poppy for my tastes.
Overall, I am mildly content with Havoc and Bright Lights. I would never suggest that Morissette should not have the ability to be happy. Like I said, good for her. She deserves it. If you have been a fan of her most recent work, you will enjoy this one just as much. For me, I know that it is destined to become a dust collector in a couple of weeks and I will simply forget most of the songs on the album.