Alanis Morissette is back and, not surprisingly, she still has a bone to pick with men. Her third studio release, “Under Rug Swept” is a return to the pissed-off femme rock of 1995’s immensely popular breakthrough album, “Jagged Little Pill.” Alanis’ vocals are as nasal and accusative as ever, and her new songs are a return to her original catchy sound that was absent from 1998’s dreary “Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie.”
Alanis deserves all the credit for this new and improved sound, as she took on exclusive songwriting and production responsibilities for the first time on this album. The more hip-hop based production techniques she uses greatly benefit the overall feel of the album. Alanis has made a triumphant return to the realm of pop music, while still maintaining the anger and frustration she feels toward the men that have done her wrong.
The album opens with an electric guitar-powered list of the qualities that Alanis looks for in men, in the form of “21 Things I Want in a Lover.” Despite the title, this track is far from a lovesick entry in the diary of a teenage girl, as Alanis asserts, “These are 21 things I choose to choose a lover.”
By the second track, the energetic and slightly psychedelic “Narcissus”, Alanis’ frustration is apparent as she whines, “Why do I try to love you — when you really don’t want me to?” In addition to inducing guilt in the many men to whom this song is likely dedicated, “Narcissus” is a well-built song, complete with a lasting hook that’s sure to come to mind in listeners’ future break-ups.
Not all the material is as intense as the first few tracks. There is “That Particular Time,” a soft piano ballad in which Alanis reveals that she is even willing to forgive guys once in a while. While it is melodically pleasant, the less argumentative tone of the lyrics gives the impression that Alanis is holding back.
The final two tracks on the album are especially intriguing, beginning with the hip-hop driven “Surrendering,” which is followed by the closer, “Utopia”, a folky waltz. With these two songs, both slight but effective departures from her usual sound, Alanis ensures that she is very much in charge of her music’s production as well as her love life.
“Under Rug Swept,” is a vast improvement over Alanis’ last album, but still fails to live up to the standard of PMS rock set by “Jagged Little Pill.” Though it may not be the pinnacle of her career, “Under Rug Swept” is certainly a step in the right direction.