Alanis Morissette – “Havoc And Bright Lights”

by marcopantella

Sometimes there is a thick line between the idea we have about a certain artist and what the artist really is as a person. This line becomes thinner when this person gives birth to its first child and everything is reflected in the work as an artist. The child here is Ever Imre and the new mama is Alanis Morissette, releasing her first studio album in four years titled “Havoc and Bright Lights”.

Only a woman can fully grasp, feel, and understand motherhood and I was waiting for how one of the few remaining poetesse of music would sound in this new chapter of her life. The stakes are high when you are as established as her in the music industry, with a strong and devoted fan base and with a career of almost twenty years. “I’m on my twentieth round of vitamin v” she sings in “Celebrity”.

I guess it is true that maternity puts things in perspective and listening to the album you feel like a whole 360 degree retrospective of her musical repertoire is turned into a new panorama track after track, leading to a new beginning and a new evolution.

Rock-pop moments like single “Guardian” and “Woman Down”, about women’s rights and rumored to be the second single, remind of the easy listenings from her 2002 “Under Rug Swept”. The atmosphere of her unquestionable 1998 masterpiece album “Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie” is brought back in the outstanding “Numb” and “Havoc”. The more ethnic sounds of “Flavors of Entanglement” leave a mild trace in “Win and Win”, dedicated to her brother as “No Pressure Over Cappuccino” was, and the characterizing anger of Alanis’ debut album “Jagged Little Pill” is still heard in a more subtle way as she questions life, religion, and celebrity in “Lens” and “Celebrity”.

Despite sounding quintessentially Alanis in a brighter, reinvented, and occasionally too pop way, the phenomenal comes with the more darker and on the edge tracks like “Numb”, where a crying and frantic Roxanne-style violin plays along the line “I am lonely, I feel hungry and unloved. I feel angry, I am livid, need a hug”, and “Havoc”, that explores the entitlement of feeling depressed before discovering a joyful situation that was there all along. This is the bright side, or the bright light, of the record, “If forgiveness is understanding, then I offer mea culpa for the millionth time”.

The sweetness of the piano in  ”Empathy” is about being loved and understood, “I’m healed by your empathy, oh this intimacy” and as she questions her beliefs against her partner’s in the crescendo rhytm of “Lens”, “So now it’s your religion against my religion”, through the lens of love there is no room for misunderstanding, “And I’d like to know what we’ve seen through the lens of love”.

Alanis’ lyrics used to be so personal that sometimes were hard to decipher, yet they always managed to touch and explore deep emotional states with their straight forwarding and borderline words, carefully chosen as through the eyes of a poet. Even tough this time around they are more accessible, they don’t lose their integrity. Maybe it is the need to just enjoy her baby, relax, and as every mother to take a break from a life that revolves around another life, as she sings in “Receive”.

Taking everything into account, there may not be moments like “You Oughta Know”, “That I Would Be Good”, or “Uninvited” and the track “No” is unfortunately available only in the Japanese release of the album. Nonetheless she inquires into and exorcise everything until the last track, “Edge of Evolution”, where she leaves behind “The Couch” of the shrink with all its interpretations of a psychological nature. We simply “keep going out here on the edge of evolution” and for someone like her who has always been looking for an equilibrium through spiritual doctrines, this state of mind is the greatest achievement.

On the edge of cliché, she also speaks her mind about celebrity and how you are supposed to be and feel. I am sure that multi Grammy Awards winner Alanis already knows how to deal with this as she stays true to herself and her beliefs once again. She is just being ironic, don’t you think?…