My biggest problem with Jagged Little Pill is its faux grunge (what we would now call post grunge) production; there’s this veneer of trying to make Alanis fit in with alternative rock bands, but it’s clearly the work of someone who was never in an alternative rock band and is just trying to create a facsimile in studio. From the very first song on this record, it’s clear that two things have happened with that production:
- For one thing it has been updated and I detect a slight trip hop influence here and there, something that was pretty trendy in 1998, especially among female singer songwriters (Tori Amos, PJ Harvey, Madonna) – though it is a little more subtle here.
- Second, though it is still very much in full “post grunge” mode when the distorted but somehow very clean guitars kick in, the record sounds a lot better, and a lot less dated to my ears than Jagged Little Pill. (I should note that it still sounds very 1998 but, for some reason, I hate this less than a lot of the other 1998 records I’ve been listening to recently with their funky drummers, looped guitars and what have you.
And I think that my relative enjoyment of this record – and my willingness to overlook its litany of late 1990s cliches in the arrangements and production – comes mostly from Alanis herself. Though there are fewer famous songs on this record, I think she has matured as a songwriter, on the whole, and this record is a more consistent set of songs, even if 6 of them didn’t become hits in Canada like with Jagged Little Pill.
And she is, if anything, a more assured performer even than last time. She still has her unique voice but she takes more risks with it and this allows her to add a little more variety to her songs, both with their structures and with their arrangements.
The record is too damn long and, as others have noted, is very much a product of the CD era – got to fill that thing up! But I think it’s a lot stronger than a lot of these bloated 70 minute things forced upon us around this time.