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Alanis Morissette: Havoc and Bright Lights - Album Review

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by Julian Groneberg (subscribe)
Freelance copywriter and blogger. Avid dog owner, living in East Brisbane. If you like my articles please hit subscribe or 'like' at the end of the post! To hire me visit for a range of copywriting services
Published September 2nd 2012
Havoc and Bright Lights

A lot has happened since we last heard from Alanis Morissette on 2008's post-breakup album Flavors of Entanglement. That album featured songs that chronicled the breakup of her and Hollywood A lister, Ryan Reynolds. Fast forward four years and she's found love again and married fellow musician Mario Treadway and also become a mother in the process. This motherhood is something she pays tribute to on lead single 'Guardian,' where she sings with trademark powerful vocals about being a 'watchman' and 'warrior of care' over heavy guitars and uplifting keyboards. Its clear she has come along way from the wide-eyed 21-year-old we heard when Jagged Little Pill topped the charts worldwide back in 1995. While she has never achieved the dizzying success of her debut, her latest offering proves she still has a lot to say albeit in a more sage and reflective way.

Those wishing for another Jagged Pill will be left dissapointed, as will be will those who are hoping to hear some of the god given rage that she channelled on her signature song 'You Oughta Know.' The Alanis of that era has long been replaced by a more musing and philosophical one, and Havoc and Bright Lights is no exception. While Alanis still puts her relationships and personal vulnerabilities under the microscope especially on 'Lens, which along with 'Spiral' is one of the albums standouts, the raw emotion of previous work is missing and has been replaced by an overall more hopeful tone.


Musically domestic bliss seems to agree with Alanis and even though some of the songs like 'Til You' and 'Empathy' play out like love letters to her husband, the sunny piano and crisp vocals in Empathy make for a satisfying and uplifting listen. Vocally she shifts gears and becomes more grating on 'Celebrity,' which is an Evanescence gothic style anthem which looks critically into the shallow and superficial world of fame. Her vocals are at their most sharp on Woman Down where she delivers a snarling message to misogynists singing 'Calling all woman haters/We've lowered the bar on the behaviour we'll take,' over a rhythmic and pulsing dance-pop backdrop.

The production on Havoc and Bright Lights is slick and often earthy seeing a return of Guy Sigsworth (Frou Frou, Bjork) in the producer chair, giving the album the polished feel of its 2008 predecessor. This time round though their is less experimentation in terms of instruments and worldly influences, which is a pity since its one of the reasons which made Flavors of Entanglement such a surprising and worthwhile listen. Unfortunately the polishedness of Havoc renders the record to be at times middle-of-the-road pop rock which is agreeable but not boundary pushing. In Alanis's case this is a shame since she her best artistically when she mixes up the formula.

Well known for her penchant for making social commentary in interviews and in her music, the songs where Morissette looks inwardly at her own self remain her strongest and ring the most true. This time round as mentioned we're hearing a lot of positive affirmations. While this translates into satisfying and agreeable listen, it is hard to be entirely happy for the singer/songwriter's new situation since her songwriting is galvanised when there is some form of turmoil in her life and has traditionally delivered some of her best music.

Overall this record will be sure to please fans of the songstress, and delivers a much more cohesive effort than her last album in a satisfied state - 2004's So Called-Chaos. It terms of recent music though it unfortunately lacks the emotion and artistic development which saw underrated Flavors become her best work of the last decade.

Havoc and Bright Lights is available on Sony's Collective Sounds now.

DOWNLOAD Woman Down, Spiral, Guardian, Empathy


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Good one Julian! Keep your dream alive and it will happen. What area do you want to write in? L:)
by Lexa T (score: 3|1070) 2326 days ago
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