Under Rug Swept
Alanis Morissette and her never-ending sentences return for this smart, if occasionally pretentious new album, her first studio set since 1998's Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie.
Breaking away from producer Glen Ballard, who oversaw the latter disc as well as 1995's massively successful breakthrough Jagged Little Pill, Morissette gives the production a go on her own here. She proves more than up to the task. The sound is rich, layered with guitars, keyboards, percussion, and occasional Mideastern flavors, with help from musical collaborators like Meshell Ndegeocello and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea.
And though she sure can ramble, Morissette is rarely, if ever, boring. The Canadian songwriter's offbeat verbosity is just weird enough to lure in the listener, and it's often not until the third, fourth or fifth time through when all of her lyrical eccentricities finally kick in. Just check out one verse from the killer opening cut, “21 Things I Want in a Lover:”
“Do you derive joy from diving in and seeing that loving someone can actually feel like freedom? Are you funny? a la self-deprecating? Like adventure? And have many formed opinions?”
Yes, that's an actual verse and what's stranger is that it somehow works. It may be light years away from “I love you, Peggy Sue,” but that's what makes Morissette so refreshing when she's on. And she's definitely on, in songs like the swirling, Mideastern-tinged “So Unsexy,” the semi-psychedelic “Precious Illusions,” and the cutting first single “Hands Clean,” which details a once clandestine relationship with an older, music-industry insider.
Unfortunately, Morissette isn't always at the top of her game here. She reportedly wrote 30 songs for the album, before trimming it down to 11 tracks. But with the exception of the quite lovely “Utopia,” the second half falls far short of the first.
Still, Under Rug Swept is a statement of independence, and cool confidence, from a colorful creative force who's finally crafting her career on her own terms.