Home Read Classic Album Review: Alanis Morissette | Under Rug Swept

Classic Album Review: Alanis Morissette | Under Rug Swept

The superstar sifts through more romantic baggage on her mellower third album.

330

This came out in 2002 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):

 


She’s talented, intelligent, funny, brave, creative, famous, rich, attractive and still shy of 30. You’d think Alanis Morissette would have no trouble finding a decent relationship. Or at least a decent shrink to help her deal with it.

Apparently not. On both counts. Not that there’s anything newsworthy in that. Alanis is, after all, the woman who made a name for herself by airing her dirty laundry in public. Her 1995 debut album Jagged Little Pill — and especially its hit You Oughta Know — was a classic breakup album, the musical equivalent of a spurned lover cutting her ex’s head out of their pictures. The success it garnered seemed to help; like they say, living well is the best revenge. Still, the title of her looser 1998 followup — Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie — made it clear Alanis still had a few unresolved romantic issues.

Sorry, did I say a few? Folks, Alanis has more issues than the TV Guide warehouse. And on Under Rug Swept, her third session of self-analysis, we hear about them all. Over the course of 11 moody, hypno-pop songs in 50 minutes, Morissette cracks open her diary and introduces us to the ghosts of relationships past, present and future.

They come in all varieties. There’s the creepy older man of her teen years in Hands Clean. The selfish mama’s boy of Narcissus. The soulmate who got away in Flinch. The one she thought she wasn’t good enough in So Unsexy. The suitor whose come-ons are just Precious Illusions. The ambivalent one who backed away That Particular Time. The suspicious lover of You Owe Me Nothing in Return. Even the new one she’s over the moon for and Surrendering to.

Even when she’s not obsessing over a specific man, Alanis seems to be obsessing over men in general. A Man is a view from the other side of love’s fence. The title of 21 Things I Want in a Lover pretty much tells you everything you need to know. The song tells you more than you need to know. (For those who care, Alanis’s turn-ons include curiousity, political awareness, self-deprecating humour, athleticism and being “uninhibited in bed … more than three times a week.” Turn-offs: The death penalty, cheaters and addicts.)

Fittingly, Alanis’s songs this time around are equally intimate and focused. There are no big-chorus, instant-hit rockers a la You Oughta Know. These tunes are quieter, moodier and more subtle, the grooves more flowing and hypnotically repetitive — all the better to bolster Alanis’s mantra/laundry list lyrics with. All in all, the vibe is gentle, mature, soothing and comfortable.

If only Alanis seemed more comfortable. But despite her talent, her fame, her success and money — and despite claims like, “I like being solo / There are no worries and certainly no pressure” in 21 Things — she can’t seem to feel whole without a man. As she admits in So Unsexy: “I can feel so unsexy for someone so beautiful / So unloved for someone so fine … When will I start staying with myself?”

Perhaps when you learn to stop defining yourself by your relationships, Alanis.