Pop: This Week's Album Releases

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ALANIS MORISSETTE

Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie

Maverick

"I HAVE as much rage as you have," claims Alanis Morissette on her new album, and she may well be right: there can't be that many of us whose rage wouldn't be palliated to some degree by selling 28 million copies of a debut album, as she did with Jagged Little Pill. This follow- up finds her stuck in the same place, writhing with rage, recrimination and low self-esteem, as recounted through songs which consist mostly of repetitive lists: lists of questions, lists of hopes, lists of failed strategies for gaining respect, and (of course) lists of the blameworthy.

Not for the first time, one is left feeling like an unpaid therapist for a rich star's problems. Indeed, the very language of Morissette's songs derives in large part from joyless, self-obsessed psycho-babble. "It's a cycle really," she sings in "I Was Hoping", "you think I'm withdrawing and guilt-tripping you, I think you're insensitive." And she's never even met me!

Even former lovers for whom she retains a certain affection aren't immune from the witless tirade of self-help cliches: "Dear Terrance," she writes in "Unsent", "I love you muchly you've been nothing but open hearted and emotionally available and supportive and nurturing and consummately there for me..."

The fervently open tone of the album, with intimacy treated as a spectator sport, is uncannily reminiscent of The Jerry Springer Show, although not remotely as entertaining. But for all its manipulation of emotional cliche, there's no real empathy lurking beneath the drab, indecorous grunge-lite backings - clearly, when you're Alanis everybody else is just an unpaid extra in your movie. Hence the desire for absolution that runs through Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, the exculpatory tendency that treats every little problem as somebody else's fault. But as Alan Shearer would under no circumstances say to Glenn Hoddle: Alanis, have you ever thought it might be you?

JOHN LENNON

Anthology

Capitol

METHINKS HE doth protest too much. Assembled by Yoko, this four-disc set follows the usual retrospective anthology format of alternative takes, live recordings, demos and a few hard-to-find oddities - although oddly, without adding appreciably to our understanding of its subject.

Instead, as one ploughs through acre upon acre of busted takes, the whinging, petulant side of Lennon comes to grate all the more harshly. Crammed into one box like this, his post-Beatles career appears to have consisted largely of appeasing the enormous chip on his shoulder by going around looking for arguments, with a parade of pompous causes and petty personal vindiction, interspersed with occasional bouts of mortification, utopian blather and, finally, domestic stasis.

As a result, interest wanes sharply the further one delves into the box: after all, it's one thing to hear the early versions of the Plastic Ono Band material, and another entirely to sit through the rehearsals for Double Fantasy. In a very real sense, it's all downhill from the gripping "Working Class Hero" which opens the album.

ELVIS PRESLEY

Memories - The '68 Comeback Special

RCA

THE 1968 Christmas television special is one of the cornerstones of the Presley legend, the triumphant rejuvenation after a decade of betrayal. There are no concessions to Christmas here, but a newly-svelte Elvis in top-to-toe leather, "looking for Trouble" with an irresistible switchblade charm.

Musical arranger Billy Goldenberg sensibly tried to reactivate Elvis's more violent side, dormant under a decade of dreadful movies; he succeeded in keeping the energy level high, but it must be said that, for their era, a lot of these arrangements are creakingly dated. Things get a little more rough and rootsy when Elvis hangs out with his original bandmates Scotty Moore and DJ Fontana, particularly since DJ's drums consist of a guitar case, which he slaps enthusiastically, if inexactly.

But as for Lennon, so too for Presley: the original live album is not noticeably improved here by sitting through a further 17 alternative performances of the same material - indeed, hearing Elvis trot out the same impromptu ad-lib more than once actually detracts from the experience.

STINA NORDENSTAM

People Are Strange

Eastwest

MOST PEOPLE recording an album of cover versions would try and select those songs which meant the most to them, or with which they were at least familiar. Not so Swedish avant-garde popster Stina Nordenstam, who admits that her starting-point for People Are Strange was to choose "bad songs... of the most trivial kind", and try and arrive at some satisfying musical rapprochement with them.

Since the track-listing includes Tim Hardin's "Reason To Believe" and two songs by Leonard Cohen, her claim seems disingenuous - although in mitigation, the likes of "Purple Rain" and "Sailing" comfortably support the epithet "trivial".

There's not an awful lot of affection discernible in these versions; instead, Nordenstam renders them with a dry, chilled air which, by the time one reaches the penultimate "Come To Me", has become a howling gale. While her approach helps cast new light into fusty old corners - particularly on the pleasantly spooky "I Dream Of Jeannie" - there's an autumnal, somewhat sinister presence about the album, which is oddly beguiling.

OASIS

The Masterplan

Creation

THIS COMPILATION of Oasis B-sides sounds like nothing so much as the valedictory victory parade of Britpop as it slouches off into history. It's like a greatest hits album without the hits, which is a bit of a swizz, although compared to the overblown Be Here Now, there's a vibrancy and swagger about some of these 14 tracks that reflects their timescale.

Most are culled from between October '94 and October '95, the year of Oasis's greatest glory, which is good in terms of spirit, though less successful (given that none of the nine B-sides from their first three singles is included) in fulfilling the album's ostensible rationale of offering American fans the opportunity to catch up on the band's more hard-to-find tracks.

There are some undeniable gems - the wistful "Half The World Away", the corny singalong bounce of "Stay Young", the triumphant swell of "Acquiesce" - but the gloss is rapidly wearing off several others, leaving behind just a husk of attitude strapped to a killer chord-change or two, like a more sullen equivalent of the Cheshire Cat's smile.

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