Under Rug Swept

Alanis Morissette

Maverick Records, 2002

http://alanis.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/28/2002

Normally, when an artist who has had an album released which was a cultural phenomenon, the armchair critic in all of us looks at the next disc or two they release and wonder if they'll be able to live up to the level of success we anticipate.

In the case of Alanis Morissette, her fourth American release (and third Stateside studio album) Under Rug Swept was being monitored on two different radars in the Pierce Memorial Archives. How would it compare to Jagged Little Pill... and would it be a better disc than that frisbee known as Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie?

The answers are pretty clear. For the former, Morissette will never come close to topping what Jagged Little Pill was in terms of being a cultural watermark. It's silly for her to even try to do a sequel, and she wisely has chosen the last two times not to attempt it. As for the latter question, Under Rug Swept is a surprisingly good album, even with the occasional lag in energy, and is a return to form for Morissette and her stream-of-consciousness tales of woe and heartbreak.

I'll be honest: I didn't expect much of this disc. I've never understood how people swarmed over Morissette when she burst onto the American scene in the mid-'90s. But the more I heard from songs I downloaded from the Internet, the more I was convinced that this was a disc that was worth spending the money on - and, in fact, I did buy the disc. (Memo to Michael Greene and Hillary Rosen: See my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 that? File-sharing actually gained a sale.)

Right out of the gate, Morissette comes out strong. "21 Things I Want In A Lover" is a powerful track, one which will undoubtedly be the second hit single from this album. Morissette's laundry list of qualities in her ideal man make it sound like she's looking for a combination of Brad Pitt and Superman, but she is able to deliver the goods in a well-written track. The first single, "Hands Clean," is Morissette's open letter to an older mentor of hers whom she apparently had a relationship with when her career was starting in Canada. Interestingly, she seems to look back on that time with a mixture of disgust and wistfulness - all wrapped up in a catchy yet understated rhythm line.

While Morissette seems to have gotten a lot of the bile out from her Jagged Little Pill days, she still can be blunt in her lyrics. The notable example is in the song "Narcissus," another stream of consciousness track which took me aback because it was so well-written and executed. That said, I want to see how radio will handle the line "You go back to your friends who will lick your ass". The funny thing is, had Morissette used "kiss your ass" instead, the force of the message would have been weakened. In this case, the stronger language is appropriate.

Under Rug Swept is filled with semi-autobiographical songs, many of which don't necessarily have a happy plot or ending. Yet many of these songs prove how skillful a songwriter Morissette truly is. "Flinch" might have the tone of a ballad, but lyrically, it's one of her most powerful tracks ever. Likewise, "So Unsexy" has a pointed message, but the slow funk-pop groove might throw listeners a curve.

There is only one track which doesn't pull its weight on this disc - "That Particular Time" is far too lethargic, and it comes dangerously close to dragging the rest of the album down with it. Fortunately for Morissette, "A Man" quickly pulls the disc out of that brief tailspin - and while the remaining tracks aren't the strongest in the bunch, they do provide a proper resolution to the disc.

If Jagged Little Pill was the portrait of the artist as an angry young woman and Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie was a snapshot of Morissette trying to come to grips with her life through spirituality, then Under Rug Swept could rightfully be seen as the culmination of the whole journey, with Morissette openly talking about how her past shaped her into what she is today. It's a major improvement over her last studio effort, and is sure to be warmly embraced by her legion of fans. This could well be the album that Morissette has been struggling to make since her ascension to superstardom.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 2002 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Maverick Records, and is used for informational purposes only.