Alternative Rock, 2002
Alanis Morissette, after having exorcised all the verbal diarrhea her “soul searching in India” (or something) catalyzed three years back, is back with a steadier, more accessible (although not as radio friendly as Jagged Little Pill), and less verbose album.
Musically, Under Rug Swept is standard fare from her – if you’ve heard Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, you will know what to expect. But most of the tracks here are also in a way more stripped-to-basics tunes, with very little showy production compared to her previous works.
But male-bashing seems to be back in vogue again, albeit in a more playful manner. 21 Things I Want in a Lover is basically a recital of a shopping list of desirable qualities in a man, everything from being anti-capital punishment to having a self-depreciating wit. If that’s not enough, Ms Morissette twists the blade into the male ego some more by declaring, “I’m in no hurry, I could wait forever, I’m in no rush, cuz I like being solo.” Ouch. “Are you uninhibited in bed? More than three times a week?” will be the final straw that pushes many male critics to lament for the days of the Rolling Stones all over again, I tell you.
Narcissus is a cute ditty that sees Ms Morissette laying waste to Momma’s boys everywhere (David Schwimmer, is that you?). She says bye bye to romantic fantasies in Precious Illusions.
But at the same time, there’s the usual “I’ve found peace” mantras in Utopia and Ms Morissette making peace with her fellow humans in You Owe Me Nothing in Return. She decides to give men a break in A Man, in which she romanticizes the crosses a man has to bear. Or something.
But my favorite is the first single, Hands Clean. It’s nice on the ears, true, but it’s also a bittersweet yet playful take on Ms Morissette’s experiences with the Dr Svengalis in her life. Here, she is the older woman embarking on an affair with a much younger portege. “Ooh, this could get messy, ooh but you don’t seem to mind,” she purrs, as she reflects on their affair, the pros and cons. Her conclusion? “I might want to marry you one day, if you’d watch that weight and keep your firm body.” Ouch.
Hands Clean, I find, is really a great song with simultaneously playful, romantic, and cynical overtones that tell a great story. Like this single, the rest of Under Rug Swept is an album that relies more on its lyrics to carry the music rather than glossy productions. In fact, I find it hard to remember most of the tunes of this album. It’s the words that linger in the memory.
And I like that a lot.