HERE'S A TEST: match these Canadian rockers—Avril Lavigne, Alanis Morissette and Melissa Auf der Maur-with the opening lyrics from their latest albums.
1. How to stay paralyzed by fear of abandonment / how to defer to men in solvable predicaments
2.1 can’t find a way to describe it/ it’s there inside; all I do is hide 3. Lightning is my girl /gonna let the lightning tuck me into my bed /gonna let that man, let him into my bed
It’s actually quite easy. The first is obviously Morissette, once again forcing us to sit in on her talk therapy. The second can only come from Lavigne, the teenager of the group—striving to be deep, but really saying nothing. And by process of elimination, Auf der Maur is the author of the bewildering art-rock ramblings. Sure, all three ladies know their way around a hook, a power chord, a driving backbeat and a hairbrush, but penning decent lyrics isn’t their strong suit. With Auf der Maur’s self-titled debut (May 18), Lavigne’s sophomore effort, Under My Skin (May 25), and Morissette’s latest, So-Called Chaos (May 18), these usually appealing artists show the most uninteresting sides of themselves.
As a stoic or a sneeringly sexy rocker, the red-headed Auf der Maur is immensely watchable. And the one-time bassist for both Hole and Smashing Pumpkins, also daughter of late Montreal bon vivant/ journalist Nick Auf der Maur and translator/radio DJ, Linda Gaboriau, has stories we all want to hear. But what she offers on Auf der Maur is artifice: a variety of personas, talk-singing, put-on voices and sex-goddess posturing, promising to “taste you, I’ve got a big mouth” and “shuffle his deck, clean.” Yes, a couple tracks (Real a Lie and Would If I Could) are worth a listen, and it’s incredibly cool that a female can infiltrate the hard rock boys’ club so authentically (she’s well-versed in Black Sabbath and gets some help from members of the genre’s reigning heavyweights, including Queens of the Stone Age). But didn’t Auf der Maur pick up anything in her days with Billy Corgan and Courtney Love? As dysfunctional as they were, at least they knew how to lay themselves bare.
Lavigne needs to hold on to her previous persona. She was a skateboard-toting, punk-rock-loving hellion, and the music worked. But what selfrespecting skater would turn to schlocky Chantal Kreviazuk as a songwriting partner? Further proving Lavigne doesn’t have the hardcore instincts, she’s chosen guitarist Evan Taubenfeld as her other main collaborator. He’s the least punk-rock member of her band. Not surprisingly, the music suffers.
The Napanee, Ont.-bom megastar says this album is more honest and mature than her last, but she has maintained that marketable aggressive stance. In her pro-abstinence single, Don’t Tell Me, she threatens to kick a guy’s “ass” for thinking she’s the kind of girl who’d have sex with him. The more mature Lavigne is still more fighter than lover. The music remains catchy, but the musings of this 19-going-on-13-year-old should have been relegated to her Web journal.
The days of boy-bashing and butt-kicking are well behind Morissette. Spiritually sound, in love and newly shorn, the veteran of the three is into sharing, and is comfortable with herself. Too comfortable, actually. The continuing obsession with nakedness and selfanalysis is nauseating. Morissette makes everything about Morissette. Even a love song focuses on what her boyfriend thinks of her: You see everything, you see every part /you see all my light, and you love my dark. And yet, time and time again her music is frustra tingly irresistible. We still belittle the Ottawa native for not knowing the definition of irony, but who actually turns the dial when Ironic comes on? And even with all the chanting and sitar dabbling—thank you, India—she consistently delivers hypnotizing melodies and crisply constructed, danceable songs.
Auf der Maur’s still the one you’d want to make out or hang out with. But Morissette has put out the best album. As for Lavigne, this time around you may want to abstain. I?]
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