How wrong can they be?

Alanis Morissette is young, Canadian and mainstream. Does that make her a fake?
Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Is a "Morissette" a mini-Morrissey? An easy-to-chew slice of misery? A Baby-Bel doomed romantic, neatly wrapped in wax paper by a major record label? From things written about 21-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette, you'd have to believe so.

She's a fake, say the hip music papers. You see, at the age of 16, Alanis was Canada's top teeny-bop star: Tiffany, Debbie Gibson and Deanna Durbin rolled into one. What is she now doing, then, signed to Madonna's Maverick label, working with various Red Hot Chili Peppers on huge, throbbing slabs of rawk and writing lyrics such as "All I need now is intellectual intercourse / A soul to dig the hole much deeper / And I have no concept of time other than it is flying" ("All I Really Want")? Besides, for her debut album Jagged Little Pill to be such a massive world-wide chart success, she must be a watered-down version of something too true for middle America to take.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. It doesn't happen often but for once good music, music with a heart and a vein pulsating in its temple, has made it mainstream. So sue her. As her bare-chested rock boy band strike up the chords to "All I Really Want", Alanis bounds on to the Shepherd's Bush Empire stage, jerking and yanking at her satin shirt, her face obscured by bottom-length black ringlets. If the band look and sound like Viper Room regulars, then she is a crazed marionette, a delirious Victorian child. And, although she looks like a Shakespear's Sister wet dream, she sounds, strangely enough, like Buffy Sainte-Marie.

Her voice is as powerful and as subtle as the words she writes. The inspirationally furious "Right Through You" was one of the first songs she ever wrote when she re-invented herself. Considering her success, the lyrics are particularly delicious: "Now that I'm Miss Thing / Now that I'm a zillionaire / You scan the credits for your name / And wonder why it's not there".

"You Oughta Know" is a gloriously anthemic paean to haunting the man who left her: "Does she know how you told me you'd hold me until you died?"- she pauses and sneers - "but you're still alive". There have been sweet boys, too, like the one who "held your breath and the door for me" but she doesn't want to be "the light from the fridge on your face at midnight" ("Not the Doctor"). Although she's probably done these songs a million times in the last month, she is a Tasmanian devil of energy. By the time the show's over, Alanis has jeteed across the stage, leapt over microphone stands and taken over the drum kit.

As that great alternative rock icon Courtney Love once wrote: "I fake it so real, I am beyond fake". If Alanis Morissette is not for real, it is an intensely truthful, soulful, bruised brand of phoney she's pushing.

n Alanis Morissette is at Manchester Apollo, tonight (0161-242 2560) and Glasgow Barrowlands, Sat (0141-552 4601)