Alanis Morissette, Ryan Adams

May 16

Less than a year ago the smart money would've been on Alanis Morissette and Bryan Adams, two Canadians totally convinced of overblown, overproduced pop-rock's persistent relevance. Surely no one would've expected The Ironic One to be joined by Ryan Adams, a young American singer with an airtight reputation for astoundingly realized, profoundly heartbroken country-rock. Yet now Bryan's busy writing songs for talking horses (he penned the tunes for DreamWorks' upcoming Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron) and Ryan's dumped the beautiful-loser act to become some sort of scruffy Hollywood hunk, a guy who gets into bar fights, hooks up with movie stars and makes his own overblown, overproduced pop-rock records.

And that's really the problem with Gold, isn't it? Not the interminable songs about Sylvia Plath or the Aaron Neville vocal affectations or the bland, lite-FM arrangements, but the sense that the whole thing is just a bid for crossover success, a move Adams picked up from some magazine somewhere. Play Gold next to Heartbreaker (or any of Whiskeytown's records) and it's hard to imagine anything else: Heartbreaker actually starts off with an in-studio argument about a Morrissey song, and it still crackles with the raw electricity of a young guy amped that he gets to do this, just excited and a little surprised that people want to hear his songs. Shit, he even named a song about an ex-girlfriend after the ex-girlfriend (which is very Alanis if you think about it, but we didn't then, so it just seemed green). In relation, Gold feels dry and rehearsed, and if it's not "Summer of '69," it's getting there.

But still, Alanis Morissette? It does make a weird kind of sense: A former teen-pop munchkin, Morissette's been following an opposite trajectory from Adams since she first conquered Canada at 16, exchanging the scrunchies-and-smiles routine for a painfully self-aware grunge-pop that keeps getting more and more "honest." Under Rug Swept, her new one, doesn't even bother with real lyrics--she just goes ahead and lists the 21 things she looks for in a lover. The total faker getting real, the real deal getting faker--give 'em each a few more records and these two desolation angels might share the same halo.

 
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