It’s kind of ironic that on her eighth studio album, “Havoc and Bright Lights,” Alanis Morissette displays an affinity for pithy song titles (“Empathy,” “Lens,” “Spiral,” “Numb”) because, as always, she has a lot to say.
Many of Morissette’s fans have grown up with her, from the internal volcano she proudly spewed in her 20s (vulgarity has never sounded better than on “You Oughta Know”) through her diary entry musings the past decade to now, the slightly mushier Alanis who, like many of her fans, is a mom and wife.
But don’t think for a second that she’s lost her ability to emotionally decapitate those who Just Don’t Get It.
The heavy synths and disco rhythm of “Woman Down” might have something in common with ABBA, but the perky backdrop belies the serious lyrics about the cycle of abuse. And by song’s end, you know the woman has emerged victorious.
What have always been both admirable and frustrating about Morissette are her lyrical ramblings, and she’s right on point here. “I’ve only known a lust for VIP,” she snarl-sings in “Celebrity,” a withering takedown of our obsession with vapidity told from the viewpoint of the desperate starlet who pleads, “Tell me who I have to be.”
But while Morissette’s superfluous lyrics can be a challenge to slog through at times, they’re usually worth the effort because of her thoughtful approach.
Musically, she’s on familiar terrain with “Numb,” a slow-building rocker filled with scattered guitar. But for as much as Morissette is painted as a banshee who only screams about ignorant men, some of her best material over the years has been soft melodies coupled with unguarded emotions (“Everything,” “Unsent,” “So Unsexy”).
Here, the sweet “’Til You,” a gently clicking ballad, and the carefree “Spiral,” on which she professes her need for that person who “bring[s] the light back in” and turns down the negative voices, provide that complement.
‘Havoc and Bright Lights” might not be perfect, but it’s easily Morissette’s most cohesive album since a decade ago (“Under Rug Swept”). And besides, why would someone who is constantly self-interrogating ever want to achieve perfection?
Also available Tuesday: