Review Summary: Are you still mad?
I pulled out my step-father’s album booklet, desperate to find something to make the long car ride quicker. I snickered to myself. “What?” he asked. I pointed to the name “Alanis Morissette.” I had only known her as the pop-rock queen of “Ironic” and “Hand in My Pocket.” He politely told me to shut up and to put Jagged Little Pill
Needless to say I was floored by the surprisingly dark depths of her personality and biting rage. But after I put in her following album, I had only one question:
“Why does no one talk about Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie
My only thought was that no one expected it. It was clear right off the bat that Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie
is a completely different beast from Jagged Little Pill
. Just on the opener “Front Row,” the layered vocals, hip-hop beat, and chorus that sounds like it was recorded on some kind of alien planet just completely shatters any preconceptions of her sound.
Lyrically it’s one of the greatest albums of all time. She manages to jump from innocence and fragility on “That I Would Be Good” to world-weary wisdom of an omniscient being experiencing the lives of no-one and yet everyone on “The Couch.” On many tracks she masters a songwriting in which she uses a repetitive phrases to begin each line in a song. It drives your attention to the lyrics better than many other techniques I’ve heard. For example, in “Thank U” she begins every line of the verses with “How ‘bout” and every line of the choruses with “Thank you.” While this sounds cheesy and annoying, she makes it work splendidly:
“How bout me not blaming you for everything
How bout me enjoying the moment for once
How bout how good it feels to finally forgive you
How bout grieving it all one at a time
Thank you India
Thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment”
Not convinced? Even better is “Are You Still Mad,” an entire song built around sickening repetition. The redundancy of the title phrase. The plodding piano riff that eventually blossoms into a menacing string section. The way her voice shatters into a series of echoes as she taunts, “Of course you are.” All of this should be frustrating, a vexing experience that tires you out and makes you anxious for finality. Inexplicably it achieves all this in the best way possible. Her taunt eventually gives way to guilt, only adding to the toxic whirlwind of emotions being flung about every which way.
“Are you still mad I wore the pants most of the time?
Are you still mad that I seemed to focus only on your potential?
Are you still mad that I threw in the towel?
Are you still mad that I gave up long before you did?
Of course you are
Of course you are”
It’s confusing, maddening, yet strangely attractive. Perhaps this is what life was like for Alanis Morissette.
Each of these moods and emotions are supported by some of the thickest and deepest atmospheres ever put to tape. There’s a never-ending series of instruments, sounds, worlds, eras explored here, each one more ethereal and mysterious than the one before it. The album sounds absolutely nothing like Jagged Little Pill
. The solid musicianship and lyricism is there, but a devilish experimentalism has taken over. This is her “Tusk,” made after she realized there’s no point in trying to duplicate the success of her pop crowning achievement. Songs like “Baba” switch midway and seamlessly from one idea to another, in this case from full-on metal inspiration to something that could be sung in some kind of art-rock cathedral. It gets to the point that I’m pretty sure there’s a chicken clucking sound effect during the chorus of “Would Not Come.” Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie
is all at once desperately human and frighteningly alien.
The gorgeous “Unsent” serves as an excellent marriage between the lyrics and music on the album. On the surface, it’s a simple series of letters written to different men from Morisette’s young adulthood. But each verse is addressed to one individual, there are no choruses, and she doesn’t even bother trying to rhyme. Yet what sounds like it would be a chaotic mess of a song is given a masterful structure through the music. Each man she speaks of has a different mood, different instruments take the center stage, the pacing ebbs and flows like a tide all supporting Morissette’s blissful words.
If there’s one clear fault to all of this, it’s the length. Crashing in at a massive 72 minutes spread over 17 tracks, it could be argued that the album could benefit from a slight trim. Not by me however, in my opinion every track has a place and purpose here (even if the closer, “Your Congratulations” can be a bit much.)
Needless to say, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie
is not an album to fuck around with.
And perhaps that’s the answer to the question right there. This is not an accessible album. An entrancing, mysterious, hulking, beautiful album, yes. But the penetrating lyrics, sometimes ridiculous experiments, and towering size all exhibit potential turn-offs for those who were fans of her simple, angsty alt-rock hits of old.
Her audience couldn’t get into it, and the audience that would get into it wouldn’t bother with the name “Alanis Morissette” plastered over the cover, as eerie as the art was.
So it comes down to this: If you liked Jagged Little Pill
check this out, if you didn’t, please for the love of God check this out.