August 27, 2012
Alanis Morrisette
Havoc and Bright Lights

By now, you know what to expect from an Alanis Morissette album: lyrics that double as psychotherapy sessions, ’90s-style anthems of a type that used to be called alternative rock, breakup songs to be endlessly parsed for coded messages to ex-fiance Ryan Reynolds, some yelling.

“Havoc and Bright Lights,” Morissette’s first album since getting married and giving birth, contains all of the above and . . . less. While it predictably uses those events as cannon fodder, it is loose and happy, messy and raw-nerved. It’s Morissette’s most assured, most outward-looking work since her 1995 breakthrough “Jagged Little Pill,” which is different than saying it’s her best.

Morissette still seems most comfortable with the sort of pre-millennial, punchy chorus/wordy verse stadium rockers that once made her fortune. Her voice is a time capsule, instantly evoking 1995 whether she tries to (like the rote but enjoyable first single “Guardian”) or not (like the electro-disco “Woman Down,” a waste of a perfectly good feminist manifesto).

“Havoc” is never dull, even when it’s awful. Too many tracks indulge Morissette’s love of stagey, New Age/World music hybrids, often welded to a gentler, Nine Inch Nails-evoking industrial rock, suggesting the waiting room music in the worst dentist’s office in the world. On “Celebrity,” Morissette lectures a Hollywood striver with an indulgent father and a fondness for VIP rooms (”I am a tattooed sexy dancing monkey/Just aloof enough to get you to want me”). Either it’s a trenchant takedown of Paris Hilton that comes five years too late, or Miley Cyrus should call her lawyer.

Allison Stewart

Cover art for Alanis Morissette's album “Havoc and Bright Lights.” (Courtesy of Collective Sounds)

Recommended Tracks

“Guardian,” “Celebrity”

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