Flavors of Entanglement Review

Alanis Morissette
Release: June 10, 2008

Alanis and I go way back, and I was very curious about her latest when I heard that she was going to try more electronic arrangements. She's never been afraid of technology - word was that she recorded "Jagged Little Pill" on home-studio ADAT recorders, state-of-the art for the time. Regardless, it was a revelation to the music world - here was a singer/songwriter who was bold, sexual, and angry. Her second album, "Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie" filled with interesting music and the insightful, if self-absorbed, lyrics of a young woman finding herself through repeated glotteral stops. My respect for her only went up when she released a hilarious Fergie/Humps parody, and when she revealed in an interview a fondness for Triumph motorcycles. Alanis' music is often about herself, or close observations of others, but is a record of her growing up.

"Flavors of Entanglement" is the 3rd album of hers that I own - it's the first album I've ever pre-ordered off of the iTunes store. I got a few bonus track and a special pre-order track (and those tracks are very important, as they eclipse the quality of the rest of the album!). But I also only get 128kb tracks, and no art. Not too sure about this iTunes business yet.

The first two tracks, "Citizen of the Planet" and "Underneath", are forgettable. They simply did not hold my interest. The third tack, Straitjacket, made me raise my eyebrows. A dance track? Dropping the f-bomb? The instrumentation is all saw-lead synthesizer, run through a limiter. The vocal track is heavily harmonized. Very strange. "Versions of Violence" is more of the same, although less dancable.

"Not as we", the 5th track, is more Alanis back in the "Joni Mitchell" confessional mode.

"In Praise of the Vulnerable Man" is Alanis back in "singing a letter" mode, similar to "Unsent" or "Head over Feet". But then a minute into it a saccharin backing synth that puts it more into Donna Lewis territory. I couldn't finish listening to this one.

"Moratorium" has the lyric which contains the albums name, and is a kind of eerie-sounding self-excoriation. Not bad. "I declare a moratorium on things relationship. I declare a respite from the toils of liaison." I know the feeling!

(OK, honestly I'm listening to this album as I write the review, and I'm on "Torch" and growing impatient. "Torch" is a down-tempo melancoly break-up song. I find myself wishing she would stop moaning about "missing his warmth" and start taunting him about whether or not she'd go down on him in a theater.)

"Giggling again for no reason" is a song about getting away from your life, driving down PCH without telling anyone where you're going, or even that you've gone. The content resonates with me deeply, but the music is not engaging. It's a great subject for a song, though.

I quickly skipped to the "Bonus Tracks". I'm glad I did! The 5 tracks here are uniformly better than the rest of the album. I was concerned for a bit that I'd wasted my money, but these tracks save the day! I really like "Orchid", "Madness", and "Limb No More". I could do without "On the Tequila" but it's a fun song!

Because I pre-ordered, I got a "Bonus Bonus Track", called "It's a Bitch to Grow Up". Musically, it's a good track, and the lyrics particularly resonate with me, so I'll wrap up this review with some of those lyrics:

It's been 33 years of restraining,
of trying to control this tumult.

I feel done.
I feel raked over coals.
All that remains is the case: that it's a bitch to grow up.

I've repeated this dance
There's still something to learn that I've not
I'm told to see that this is divine perfection
But my bones don't feel this perfection

I've known through the kicking and screaming
that there was no other direction to go

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