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100 Albums: "Jagged Little Pill" by Alanis Morissette

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Alanis Morissette
Title: Jagged Little Pill
Released: 1995
Genre: alt-rock / adult contemporary


Well this came out of freaking nowhere. A minor Canadian pop-star who was probably more famous for her brief stint on You Can't Do That On Television records a DIY album with Glen Ballard in his bedroom recording studio and the thing explodes like a bomb on MTV and rock radio, selling sixteen million copies and spawning six hit singles. The lead single was the bolt-from-the-blue You Oughta Know, featuring instrumentation from a couple of Red Hot Chili Peppers and more angst than people realized was possible in someone from Canada.

It's a big, sloppy mess of an album. Ballard messed up the levels while tracking vocals for You Oughta Know and clipped the hell out of them, but it was a great take that sounded good in the mix and this record was only going to move 20,000 units or so anyway, so who cares? Then, when it was an unexpected hit, and he was asked for raw tracks so people could remix it, all he could say was "yeah, sorry, we scorched that." I mean, what the hell is Hand In My Pocket even supposed to be about? It's a tone poem more than a song, and the main guitar part is one chord repeated over and over. It's the sort of record that you can't make on purpose. It was crafted by two people who were having the time of their lives writing music with absolutely zero stakes.

But here's the thing: it's kind of an amazing album. It was angsty enough for the alt-rock crowd, but you could still listen to it in the car with your mom and not feel too embarrassed when the lyrics let fly with an occasional F-bomb. Morissette is an animal on the rock tracks and a sweetheart on the ballads. She sings frankly about obsessing over ex-boyfriends, losing faith after years of Catholic school, and famously has an entire song devoted to the concept of irony that doesn't actually get around to describing anything that is genuinely ironic. Which is, itself... unintentionally ironic. And Head Over Feet may be the perfect love song? Maybe? All I know is that I developed a monster crush on Morisette after hearing it. You Oughta Know has an alternate mix as one of the two hidden tracks (don't ask, it was the 90's) in which Flea is allowed to just go crazy with the bass-line, and it's an astonishing thing to hear.

Further Listening: Nothing else in Alanis Morissette's catalog comes anywhere close to being this good. This was a happy accident of a record. She did release an acoustic version that's not as good, but is definitely interesting. It features an amusing lyric change in Ironic: "it's like meeting the man of my dreams, and then meeting his beautiful... husband." And no, that's not technically irony either.

Comments

Kathy Schrenk said…
It's hard to overstate how big of a deal JLP was to this college girl.

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