Home Read Classic Album Review: Alanis Morissette | So-Called Chaos

Classic Album Review: Alanis Morissette | So-Called Chaos

The singer-songwriter is still hauling around more baggage than J.Lo on safari.


This came out in 2004 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


Remember when you were a teenager and you got your heart broken? You were sure you would never get over it — but you did. That, in a nutshell, is the difference between you and Alanis Morissette.

Living, breathing proof that global fame, a vast fortune and unparalleled success do not buy happiness, Alanis spends much of her fourth studio album So-Called Chaos continuing to dredge up the same topics she was obsessed with nearly 10 years ago on her first album — including, apparently, that same sitcom goof who inspired You Oughta Know. “Fourteen years, 30 minutes, 15 seconds I’ve held this grudge,” she says. “Eleven songs, four full journals … a piece of every record.” Now, granted, the song in question — a surprisingly soothing ballad called This Grudge — is her attempt to finally, thankfully, let it go once and for all. “I wanna forgive for the both of us,” she says. And that’s, as Stuart Smalley would say, OK.

Moreover, if that were Alanis’s only outstanding issue, I’d be happy to forgive right along with her. But no. On the 10 relentlessly confessional tracks of So-Called Chaos, Morissette is still hauling around more baggage than J.Lo on safari. The low self-esteem, the romantic insecurity, the insistence on defining herself through her relationships, they all surface over and again in the awkwardly wordy and repetitive lyrics to Excuses, Doth I Protest Too Much, and Spineless. Musically, things are also pretty much what you’d expect here, with the usual assortment of jawbreaker rockers, lightly crunchy pop and soft-centred ballads — though there seem to be a few more synthesizers squiggling on these tunes than we remember last time.

Admittedly, Alanis also makes a few baby steps of progress on the lyrical side of the coin — Knees Of My Bees is a giddy expression of love, Out Is Through is about seeking the light at the end of the tunnel, and Everything is about taking the good with the bad. But ultimately, these are the sort of emotional epiphanies you have when you’re a teenager, not when you’re pushing 30. That’s another big difference between you and Alanis.