She's the same old Alanis. She's been a victim. She's been a bitch. She's gotten better.

If there is a reason for So-Called Chaos, it's pain. It's not the suffering that Alanis has bemoaned on track after track. It's not about her premature loss of innocence. This disc might contain some of these elements. It is so dull, however, that none of her emotion comes through.

The mixing boards must have malfunctioned. Instead of her typical vocal-focused mix, the album's instrumental backdrop nearly drowns her out. Anyone who knows Alanis' voice appreciates that her soprano is not easily matched. Perhaps she's over-compensating for her shabby and formulaic lyrics.

On Jagged Little Pill, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie and -- to a lesser extent -- on Under Rug Swept, Alanis defined herself through her voice and through her words. She bore herself as nakedly as in her memorable "Thank U" video. No one could pronounce a word as distinctly and magically as she could. The lines fluttered with trills. Alanis owned every word that escaped her lips.

On So-Called Chaos, the magic is gone. The chorus's guitar-plucky backgrounds have a needlessly poppy aftertaste. True Alanis fans should be offended.

Is this what Avril Lavigne will sound like at age 30?


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