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Havoc and Bright Lights - Alanis Morissette

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Released: 27 Aug 2012 / Label: Columbia

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    2 Reviews
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      23.11.2012 00:26
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      Great effort.

      2012 saw the return on Alanis Morissette when she released her new album 'Havoc and Bright Lights'. It is the follow up to the 2008 'Flavors of Entanglment'. In the past 4 years a lot of things have happened in Morissette's life. She got married and gave birth to her first child on Christmas day 2010. A lot of fans then questioned whether the happy events of the past four years would bring a new, more positive sound to this album. 'Jagged Little Pill' was her biggest album, and we all remember the anger and passion of that album. Even her last album 'Flavours of Entanglment' chronicled a broken down relationship throughout the record.

      Many fans were worried that we could now see a 'happy' sounding Alanis writing songs about motherhood and the perfect marriage. Although 'Havoc and Bright Lights' does touch both subjects on occasion, it is still filled with sprinkles of previous Alanis albums.

      The album opener and lead single 'Guardian' is all about her son. "I'll be your keeper for life as your guardian" sings Alanis through a mid tempo pop rock track. The song itself is ok, but not representitive of the whole album. I feel that this was a 'safe' choice for lead single and probably down to the fact that it would (seemingly) sound good on radio.

      'Woman Down' tackles the issue of equality amongst woman and men in the 21st century. This song is probably the biggest standout on the album. It's instant and catchy. I think a lot of the fans will like this.

      'Til You' is a dreamy ballad that would sound perfect on a Disney film. This song is neither here or there for me, I don't hate it but I wouldn't select it on my iPod either. Innofensive.

      'Celebrity' is a dark, moody, haunting track that would fit well on her 'Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie' album. It seems to be an attack on a well known celebrity but Alanis has said she will never reveal who it's about so I guess you'll have to go figure it out yourselves!

      'Empathy' is sweet. It is a positive, uplifting song. The verses are just as catchy as the chorus, in fact I think the verses are better than the chorus. This song would make a great single.

      'Lens' is another instant catchy track. I think this would work well if she had added a Gospel choir into the chorus.

      'Spiral' is probably my favourite song on the album. It's probably the most 'poppy' sound on the record. I think this would make a brilliant single. Radio would eat this up. Another uplifting sounding song.

      'Numb' is a dark rock song. It has a mind blowing chorus however, I feel when she performed it life it sounded much better. I think she should have 'cranked' it up more for the album.

      'Havoc' is a beautiful piano ballad. It's the longest song on the album at almost 6 minutes and is one of those songs you need to listen to it multiple times before you 'get it'. I much prefer this to 'til you.

      'Win And Win'. Well it was all going so well before this track. I just don't get this track. Where's the melody? It's just boring. Dissapointing.

      'Receive' is the second single. This is very 90's sounding. Would fit well on Jagged Little Pill. Quite pop sounding. Really like this one.

      'Edge of Evolution' is the album closer. Usually Alanis manages to pull of some amazing epic closing tracks ('Incomplete', 'Utopia') and I was really looking forward to this track based on the reviews but it really doesn't gel with me. Don't get me wrong it's a nice track, but I was expecting something more.

      There are also several bonus tracks available too. 'Jeckyll and Hyde' features a rap from her husband SoulEye. 'Will You Be My Girlfriend' is a nice inoffensive song. 'Magical Child' is beautiful.

      Overall

      It's not a bad album. Alanis seems to sell less and less for each album and although we know she'll never reach the heights of Jagged Little Pill anytime again, it's a shame that she does seem really underrated in the UK. 'Havoc' is a great little album. I wouldn't say it's her best but it's still nice enough to listen to. Some of the songs are really catchy and uplifting.

      One thing I will say though, is that I hope she doesn't wait 4 more years for the follow-up. I think she's still got it in her to make another truely epic album.

      Top 5 Tracks:

      1. Spiral
      2. Havoc
      3. Receive
      4. Woman Down
      5. Empathy

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      04.11.2012 13:34
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      Possibly the worst album I've heard from Alanis. Ever.

      ---A little bit of History Repeating---

      I, like many others, grew up listening to the music that my parents chose to blare out at two in the morning while drunk and swaying on the carpet with their best friend. As such I grew quite fond of a lot of the music my parents played; Eurythmics, Fleetwood Mac, George Michael, even the occasional Hue and Cry song about a woman called Linda made it in there. Cool for cats and Black Coffee in bed represented the side for Squeeze, Me and you against the word and Mr Psycho threw in the punches for Space. Every single Crowded House, Take-That and Natalie Imbruglia song were regular features in my musical upbringing. They all take a very weighty seat in my collection to this day. Apart from Take-That. Take-That sucked. Thank god they got better. Ish. Anyway. This is how I was introduced to Alanis Morissette.

      ---Em oh are eye ess ess eee tee tee eee---

      Some people like a little history, so heres a very brief run down of Alanis and her Career, feel free to skip if you prefer not to know anything about her.

      She currently sits at the top seat of my musical table. I love her to bits, I really, really do. As such, I practically wet myself any time she releases an album. Alanis started her career before most people realise she started her career at the age of 17 with two fantastically terrible cheesey albums "Alanis" released in 1991 and "Now is the Time" in 1992 which reek of old Whitney Houston and Paula Abdul. You can find videos of her dancing round in spandex with giant perms singing terrible pop ballads if you just look hard enough. Thankfully these were only released in Canada.

      Moving on to 1995 Morissette jumped from arse-end-of-the-80's pop to mid-nineties-Rock-pop with Jagged Little Pill. 21 and angry, she won the hearts of a million women and about as many men with her fantastic warbling abilities and amazing dities. "Ironic" winning best single at the Juno awards and a grammy for the best music video. She could spin a brilliant yarn and even mention going down on you in a theatre. What more could you want?

      In 1998 she followed up with the much less successful Supposed former Infatuation Junkie (think "Thankyou"). Many people thought the album was too deep and depressive though personally I found it to be an amazing album full of a great mix of uplifting awesomeness. For a long time I was also convinced that she was, in fact, Sarah Connor from Terminator 2. She wasn't. That was like finding out santa wasn't real.

      In 2001 she came back again with a much poppier album "Under Rug Swept" and not long after "Feast on Scraps". These albums sound similar since they were all written for Under Rug Swept, but they are both brilliantly thought out albums containing some amazing music and range of emotion and talent. Her style was evolving and changing in quite a fantastic way. Hints of her past and glimpses of her future can all be seen in both of these albums.

      2004 saw the release of So-Called Chaos, which perpetuated the myth that Alanis is a bit depressing to listen to due to the songs she chose to release as a single (Everything, Out is through and Eight easy steps) however the album itself contains some of the most upbeat, happy music she has written (Knees of my bees is one of my favourite happy songs of all time) Soon after Alanis returned to Jagged Little Pill to re-record "acoustic" versions of the songs, laying over her earlier angrier work with a gentler, calmer side and showing off some real vocal and musical talent and giving her fans an amazing album to rekindle their love before releasing "The Collection" (essentially a greatest hits album) containing my favourite song "Still" which was recorded for the amazing film Dogma where Morissette plays the part of God.

      Her latest album, "Flavours of entanglement" was received in 2008 in a very mediocre fashion selling not even a tenth of earlier album sales. The album was judged as stale and unoriginal by critics. I'd agree that it wasn't as memorable as others, but there was still no dearth in meaningful songs and range of emotion attributed by Morissette to her break up with Sex-God Hunk Ryan Reynolds. Well admit it, you'd be emotional too!

      Since then Alanis has taken time out of making albums but not from making music. She wrote "I remain" for the Prince of Persia sound track (terrible film btw) and re-recorded some older work to help charity. After a stint of judging on American Idol she began a family, marrying a rapper and having most recently popping out a lovely little sprogling called Ever on Christmas day 2010. In 2011 she let fans know she was back in the studio recording music again. I've been waiting.

      ---Havoc and Bright lights---

      A title that fits neatly with previous releases I think. Habl comes in a pretty cover; a picture of Alanis with blue skies.This can only bode well. I'm reviewing the dulux / limited edition version which you can pick up for £12 from amazon. As with all her other previous albums, the lyrics are all contained in a little booklet inside. There are two discs in this Album. The first one contains all the new material (with two extra songs on the dulux version), the second is a Live album containing some of the new material and some older material. This excites me as usually her live recordings are spectacular. So, that being said, let us dive neatly into the first disc!

      ===CD1 - The new stuff===

      ---1 - Guardian - 4:18---

      "I'll be your angel on call, I'll be on demand"

      This is a lovely upbeat start to the album; a good solid guitar with some sparkly twinkly sounds floating through the background, fading to a gentle verse and kicking back in with a decent chorus. I could have this song in my car. Kudos. It sounds like it's either about her child and the protective urges she has as a mother (but in a positive way, not in a creepy "Do as Mother says Norman" kind of way) OR it's about something entirely different. It could really be about protecting and being there for anyone. It leaves me feeling warm and tingly and I like it.

      ---2 - Woman Down - 3:36---

      "Calling all lady haters, why must you vilify us?"

      I honestly can't decide on this song. It's a song about people who hate women. Personally I quite like women. They have handbags in which I can put my stuff. It's got a decent flow to it, still quite upbeat but I can't help cringe a little at the lyrics. As long as you don't throw your lyric listening brain at it, it's another decent song. I can't really relate too much to it but I'd still be inclined to listen again. It's growing like a fungus every time I hear it. 1up for this song.

      ---3 - 'Til You - 4:07---

      "Spinning my wheels round, I've been dodging bullets Til you"

      A much slower song. Almost sad, but not quite. It's a song that makes me want to kiss my partner. It's a song that confirms that every person she has been with before was just building up to being with the "you" in the song. Could be about her kid though much more likely to be her husband. It's a really pretty, simple love song which I give the thumbs up. Very nice, possibly a little early in the album to throw in the gear change though.

      ---4 - Celebrity - 4:00---

      "I am a tattooed, sexy, dancing monkey"

      I'm uncertain on this one. It kicks the gears up again which is a plus but it feels a little half assed. Everything in the song feels like its scared to come out and be heard, kind of like an awkward teenager. Lyrics wise I can't tell if this is an attack on celebrities who will do anything to be famous or if its an inward look at Alanis's own Fame Hunting Monster but either way, it's not really a song that contains much that I can relate to. The music isn't interesting enough to make up for it either. It might grow on me, but for now, I'm giving the album the first minus mark.

      ---5 - Empathy - 3:59---

      "Thank you for seeing me, I feel so less lonely"

      Calm and happy. For some reason it makes me think of Savage Garden. Not a terrible thing. It's another upbeat happy clappy song. Lyrics wise I feel it tells the exact same story as the song "Everything" from her So Called Chaos album except it does it in a much happier way. She's thanking someone for seeing who she truly is and accepting her and making her feel warm and cosy in herself. Isn't that pretty? Yes and no. I think this one depends on my mood. Good mood Ryan says its a lovely little ditty with not an awful lot of catchy bits, but perfectly listenable. Bad mood Ryan says it's recycled material with too much hippy dippy validation going on. However, I do get the feeling this one will be a grower. Not the strongest track, but alright. A wary thumb in the skyward direction.

      ---6 - Lens - 4:08---

      "So now it's you, your religion 'gainst my, my religion"

      This one starts out promising. It's upbeat, a bit floaty and trance-y. From what I can tell it's a song about locking horns with someone who works on a completely different set of beliefs. The verses seem interesting and then the chorus just fails to kick. I get the feeling again of the music not really being sure of what it wants to do. It just feels lazy and I don't even know why. There doesn't seem to be much feeling in what should be at least slightly emotionally charged song given the subject matter. I'm giving it a thumbs down. It's ok to have on in the background if you don't want music to be excited about.

      ---7 - Spiral - 4:16---

      "Don't leave me here with all these critical voices"

      Another vaguely upbeat song till you listen to the lyrics. Another one that just stinks of Savage Garden. My face? Not impressed. If you DON'T listen to the lyrics it sounds like an Ok 90's pop song. If you DO listen to the lyrics it sounds like a slightly cringy 90's pop song. Not an awful lot of trying going on. Background music at best. Thumbs down.

      ---8 - Numb - 4:09---

      "I am nervous, I am bored."

      The song has just started. I'm getting excited. Sounds like it might be a good one. Lots of unhappy guitar in the background. Can it be a decent song? ........... what......... No. It's a touch Lacuna Coil-ey; Rocky with a lot of violin in the background, echoing previous songs of Alanis's like uninvited and baba but again it just feels like there is something missing. The song, I suppose, is about running away from her feelings (she actually says it a couple of times and rhymes feelings with....feelings...and feelings. LAZY! BAD ALANIS!!) In the background it could sounds like a decent song but listening too closely just kills it. Could it grow on me? Maybe? With time? And chocolate. Hmm. Thumbs down.

      ---9 - Havoc - 5:52---

      "I have no defence, I'm wreaking havoc and consequence"

      Piano starts, seems like quite a nice slow sad song... till I Instantly started singing one of her other songs "not all me" over it in my head. If you don't mind it sounding the same as one of her other (better) songs then it's actually quite pretty. Thankfully the chorus starts sounding slightly different but still lacks a lot of the feeling that was heavily laced through every one of her previous albums. I'd quite like to meet with her shrink (I assume she has one) and see what drugs he has given her to wipe out every ounce of emotion. There are tiny, miniscule hints of the good artist that she is in this song, but it's just not enough to carry the song. In the words of my partner, this song is "just too easy" and she's using too many words that just don't fit in with the music. God knows what the song is actually about, but it's not a good situation whatever it is.

      ---10 - Win and Win - 5:00---

      "In my old days someone won, those were days of Win-lose"

      A bit of gentle plinky-plonky on the guitar. Some bongo type drums. A calming voice on top of it all. Very relaxing. The song is about being equal in partnership and being in love. I very muchly hope it's about her new husband or I'd have to raise an eyebrow. While it's a nice little song, it doesn't really pack much of a punch. There are some brilliant points where Alanis could have easily brought out her brilliant vocal range and really knocked the pants off me, however, as with earlier songs on the album it seems like her voice doesn't really want to bother or intrude right now. It's standing around sheepishy on the edge of the music waiting for someone to invite it in. I won't give it a thumbs down, but I can't bring myself to give it a thumbs up either.

      ---11 - Receive - 4:27---

      "I give hard, impart hard and now I need to retreat... Today's all about me learning how, how to receive"

      Wow. The first song on the album that has actually made me tingle. This song is all about taking a break out from working hard and putting everyone else first. A lovely upbeat, rock-pop piece of awesomeness. Very refreshing and empowering with a great bit of guitar and a decent beat behind it. The chorus is incredibly catchy, all round a brilliant song. This one will make it into compilation CD's for my car. A massive thumbs up on this one and a bit of a sigh of relief that the album isn't a complete dud.

      ---12 - Edge of Evolution - 4:30---

      "Here we go, out here on the edge of evolution"

      The start makes me smile with some Mario-esq electronics going on in the background. It does give a false impression that this song is going to be incredibly fast, when really it's a medium pace to it. It builds to a lovely chorus and retains the tingle of the previous song. She's finally letting her voice go and guitars are ripping away. I like this song. I don't have a clue what it's about but it's good. The only downside is that it fades out. The song does a good job of building up and then just doesn't release the pent up energy efficiently at the end. I'm giving it a thumbs up, but I'd like to hear a live version of this so it doesn't have to fade out so poorly.

      ---13 - Will You Be My Girlfriend - 4:10---

      "I guess I give and you give back, is that right?"

      Another vaugly happy song, it's fairly simple with almost just a guitar picking away in the background and her voice...but it doesn't really sound like she's trying again. Even her usually spot on vocals sound a touch out of tune in this one. It could be decent background music to a rom-com somewhere but it doesn't really. I'm pretty certain she means girlfriend in a much less Sapphic sense than I originally thought, talking more of the American "oh hey, Gurlfriend" type of girlfriend than the British "My girlfriend rocks my socks" kind of Girlfriend. A song about uncertainty in freindships and communication? Buggered if I really know. It's not a thumbs down as it does have a fairly catchy if not repetitive chorus, but it's another that doesn't quite get a full thumbs up. More could have been done here. If you get the normal version you won't have to hear this one.

      ---14 - Magical Child - 5:07---

      "When the spark is out, not inspiring, I call the magical child"

      The final song starts off quite promising, sounding like it's going to build up to an arse kicker of a chorus but again falls down on just not bringing it in. I can see why this one isn't on the normal version of the album. I'm sensing it's about recognising ones inner child and allowing it to help temper your adult decisions. I might be completely wrong. Either way, it ends up sounding a bit like a less dancy version J-lo's "waiting for tonight". I can see this being remixed into a fairly brilliant song. It's all build and build and build and no break point. It's like a joint that needs to click but just won't. To top it all off, it f***ing fades out again. NO ALANIS. PUT THE FADE OUT DOWN AND WALK AWAY FROM THE MIXING BOARD. Jesus. So much potential wasted. The spark is out Alanis. Don't call the magical child, it won't help.

      ===Verdict===

      No. Just, NO. Alanis has flopped big time on this one and that's something I will not admit to easily. While there are a couple of good songs on the album there is a complete lack of anything that has a really good kick to it. Nothing award winning. The music seems to have just stopped sounding decent and for some reason she has not recognised it and changed it. Not enough relateable music, not enough excitement and certainly no where near enough emotion shown from Alanis.

      ===Cd 2 - The Live Stuff===

      My anger has peaked after finishing that dismal first disc. Time to see if the live disc can save it. The disc informs me that it is from her Berlin show, so hopefully that was a goodun.

      ---1 - I remain (segue 1) - 2:41---

      You will recall this is the song she wrote for Prince of Persia (a terrible film based on an amazing game, both with very good sound tracks). The opening confirms it is, in fact, a live album with audience cheers and all. A very atmospheric opening to the album which is not used in full but really only to introduce her to the next track. A very small hint of a decent song.

      ---2 - Woman Down - 3:32---

      This opens with a very good drum beat and a brilliantly dirty base line behind it. This song is new material from Havoc and Bright Lights and while I'm not overly impressed with Morissettes vocals in this version (for some reason she's taken a bit of a confidence bashing by the sounds of it) the song it's self is much better in the live version. This is one that was growing on my anyway, but I'd definitely give this version a thumbs up. A nice upbeat song for the live album and comes in a whole 4 seconds shorter than the album version.

      ---3 - You Learn - 4:45---

      Back to some classic Morisette, "You Learn" was part of "Jagged little pill" and there are numerous live and acoustic versions of this song floating about, all perfect. You hear a little of morissette complimenting her audience at the start and then it breaks into another different and brilliant version of a great, older, winner of a song where she seems to regain a little of her vocal confidence.

      ---4 - Guardian - 4:59---

      Back to the new material and the first single from Habl. This doesn't sound much different from the album version and, in fact, I can make out Morissette under the track which suggests that she was miming the absolute crap out of the choruses of this song. She does the verses and her voice sounds weak and not that strongly recorded. She warbles along at the end too but it sounds a bit like an out of tune cat, which is very rare to hear from Alanis. Dissappointing to say the least.

      ---5 - Hands Clean - 4:48---

      Going back to well received classics, from "under rug swept" with this one. Musically great. It's a nice live take on the song with a great bit of guitar soloing near the end. Morissettes vocals, however, seem to be ruining the song for me. Maybe her mic isn't turned up enough? At least she's singing all of this one. I'm just baffled as to why she's not sounding up to the job and why she allowed it to be recorded and released when it sounds this weak. Not absolutely terrible, but she's kicked the arse off of this song in numerous other recordings, I'm just failing to see why she isn't owning this performance. Hmm.

      ---6 - Citizen of the Planet - 4:47---

      Now, thanks to some special computer glitch, my computer seems to think that this track should be Ironic. Cue my complete confusion when the opening bars of Citizen of the Planet from Flavours of Entanglement flow from my speakers. I don't know if it's windows media player that gave me this info or if it has come direct from the CD so I'll have to give it the benefit of the doubt for now. The CD cover, after all, seems to be matching up with the actual running order. This song is one of my favourite of the FOE album. Morissettes voice still isn't cutting it though. At the chorus she is battling with the backing track to be heard again. This time, at least, it's clear she's trying but it's a shame it's drowning her out. There is a point near the end of the song where there is so much going on musically that it just sounds like a complete jumble of noise with a beat behind it. And there's a boiling kettle noise in there too. What the actual? *sigh*

      ---7 - Ironic - 4:08---

      My computer tells me this is "havoc" but it isn't. In fact, there isn't a live version of havoc on this album at all. Is someone else getting content I'm not? I'm not impressed. Otherwise, it's back to a solid classic. Alanis just can't be bothered with it and lets the audience sing the first, throwing in the occasional word or two to guide them on. After a strong chorus, she takes back the mantle for the next verse but passes the next chorus back to the audience. The bridge has an incredibly weak moment when her voice just peters out. This is possibly the worst version of this song I've had the misfortune to hear. She continues to milk the slight lyric change at "meeting the man of my dreams and his beautiful...HUSBAND!". You can practically see her winking and nudging every gay man in the audience when she says it. The song dribbles out on her whining along in the background again. I am not impressed Alanis, you can do a whole eff-tonne better than this. I didn't pay to sing your songs for you. If I did, I'd have done it better.

      ---8 - Head over feet - 4:58---

      Sticking with a classic and the album Jagged little Pill, the computer is finally agreeing with the actual running order properly again. It's an alright version. Not the best, not the worst. Alanis at least sounds like she's trying again. Her voice sounds stronger and a smidge of her vocal range is showing through. The mic still seems a little quiet making the music drown her out a touch, but to a degree that is forgivable for a live recording. She even whips out her harmonica which always gives me the tingles. A slight cringe moment when she strokes the ego of the audience again with "you're the best listeners that I've ever met" shoved in there. As it stands, there were no cheers for it, so I guess they weren't listening all that well. She lets them sing a whole line of this one, which is a much more acceptable Audience to Morissette Ratio.

      ---9 - You Oughtta Know - 5:30---

      Still with Jagged little pill, musically different from any other version I've heard and it's very good. It has regained some of the anger that the acoustic version stripped from it. Her confidence is definitely there with this song. The sound levels seem a lot better on this track. One downside is that she does slightly botch the last line with a bit of a wobble.

      ---10 - Numb - 6:25---

      I gave this a thumbs down on the studio recorded version due to lyrics and nothing much happening. Will being live sort it out? It certainly starts with a brilliant atmosphere and does sound a bit better music wise when it's live but it suffers the same dullness that the album version oozes. It's very almost saved by the fantastic guitar solo near the end of the track but I fear it was too little too late. The thumb is slightly less down, but it's still pointing in a general downward direction.

      ---11- Hand in my pocket - 5:15---

      I'd assume we are jumping back to safe ground with another Jagged Little Pill track. Back to confident Alanis we go, though the lines "I'm tired but working" and "I'm here but I'm really gone" seem to be loaded with a hint of apology which may hint that she is aware she isn't giving her best performance. Maybe I'm reading too much into it. Certainly not the best version of the song I've heard. The confidence was there, but there was definitely a hint of her being absolutely knackered. Thumbs are in the middle for this track.

      ---12 - Uninvited - 5:59---

      The final live track comes from the soundtrack for the 1998 film City of Angels. You may be aquainted with the dance version that was let out in 2007 by freemasons as it was pretty much everywhere at the time. An incredibly atmospheric song and a brilliant choice to end on, musically and vocally sound. The levels are great, there is nothing wrong at all with this version. Thank god.

      ===VERDICT===

      The new album is disappointing. A lot of the songs are weak, with nothing relatable in them. A couple are downright cryptic. There are one or two good tracks but nothing to ride a whole album on and that is coming from one of Alanis's biggest fans. The live recording was shockingly bad for me. Given, it was not the worst I've ever heard but knowing that usually Alanis can record amazing live albums and is generally a great performer, it really shocked me that she was so weak, out of tune and sounded so fed up with it all. I can only hold out hope that she goes in a better direction if she is allowed to make more music.

      I would recommend a couple of songs from the album but definitely not the whole thing. Download the good ones and don't bother about the rest. It's not worth the £12 you'd pay for it.

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