Jagged Little Pill

Alanis Morissette

Maverick Records, 1995


REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk


Alanis Morissette plunged into the grunge-infested American music scene after playing disco-doll up in Canada. The US paid no notice whatsoever of her before 1995, even after garnering a Juno for Most Promising Female Artist with her early, dance infused albums. However, this was no pop-diva who landed on American shores. Her American debut came at a time of artists of stark contrast; sugary-sweet LeAnn Rimes on one side of the charts, Courtney Love on the other. The Squeaky-clean vs. Dirty Grrrls. What we got from Alanis was a woman who seemed to be somewhere in the middle, and knew where to draw the line before becoming either of those extremes. What we also got, was a really pissed-off chick with a chip on her shoulder.

"You Oughta Know" took the airwaves by force, immediately shooting up the charts and becoming a sort of anthem for jilted women. Alanis spares no one from the ugliest, hurtful scenes from her pain and suffering. She's happy to forcefully compare herself to her ex's new love "An older version of me, is she perverted like me?" This was no weepy little girl, this chick had stones. She wasn't afraid to interject herself uninvited, just to say her piece, "Did you forget about me, Mr. Duplicity? I hate to bug you in the middle of dinner." Frankly, I don't think she hated doing that, I think she reveled in it. As hurt as she may have been, she wasn't about to curl up and sing "How Do I Live Without You?" -- oh, no. She seems to have focused all her anger and resentment into a cathartic soundtrack for love gone bad. And she allows millions of people to share, albeit vicariously, in her psychological revenge fantasy.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Jagged Little Pill almost seems like an exercise in self-therapy. Alanis bares her soul, and her personal pains and triumphs. With a knowing wink and a crooked half grin, she explores the nature of love and relationships on songs like "Perfect" and "Not The Doctor"; and the process of healing on "Hand in Pocket" and "You Learn." She seems to be describing her own pain and it's aftermath in these songs. Telling the listener that's it's ok to be hurt, and at the same time, giving a little glimmer of hope. In "Head Over Feet," she describes the antithesis of "You Oughta Know," finding herself in love again, despite her own defenses against it, singing "You've already won me over, in spite of me."

On this disc Alanis teams up with producer and musician Glen Ballard, who helps bring out the best qualities of her quirky voice. Her voice is a bit odd at times, and often seem to be barely contained at the upper end of her range. Ballard does a nice job of reigning it in. The end result is very well-balanced, sonically as well as thematically. The grungy, hard-rocking numbers mix well with the softer songs. The hurt she shares is juxtaposed against a mirror of hope, and sometimes, against the unalterable eventuality of simple fate, as in the eclectic "Ironic." Her wry, intelligent lyrics combine with some very catchy musical arrangements to make for a fine set of memorable songs that bear repeat listening.

Rating: B+

User Rating: A



© 2004 Bruce Rusk 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.