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.