Alanis Morissette lovesthe vocabulary of pop psychology. Or, to steal a phrase from a track on her new album, Under Rug Swept (Maverick), she gives it "countless amounts of outright acceptance."
That's good because such relationship-speak allows Morissette, 27, to be specific. On her third album as a rock singer-songwriter (she released two as a teen popstress), she tells her men precisely which behaviors please her, which irk her and which of her demands are nonnegotiable. On the song Surrendering, she sings, "I embrace you for your faith in the face of adversarial forces." The line swings like a dump truck, but it's charmingly transparent. Even when her words are simple, she likes to cram in as many as the rhythm allows, for clarity's sake. On Hands Clean, she recalls the words of a lover: "I might want to marry you one day if you watch that weight and keep your firm body."
The problem with Morissette's psychobabble is that her melodies feel contorted to fit around it. As a result, Under Rug Swept has no song that begs as urgently to be belted in the shower as her 1995 breakout single, You Oughta Know. It's music for the bedroom but not the pool hall.
This is despite silk-smooth production, characterized by shuffling drums and occasional guitar blasts. And while Under Rug Swept will not please sticklers for graceful songwriting, grace has never been Morissette's forte. Her strength has always been her frankness, and the years haven't swept it under anything.