So Much for MY happy Ending: Musings on a Pop Punk Princess
by Josh McClellan, Senior Editor
It's Avril week here at YAD, and before you think about cracking wise, realize we take our Lavigne fix seriously here. Try us. somewhere between the return of Fifty Cent and the surprise explosion of Modest Mouse, our little Avril snuck around back and released her sophomore album, Under My Skin. While I'd be lying if i said i'd listened to it, i do nevertheless feel fully qualified in reviewing her cd as it appears in my playlist on Winamp. Thusly:
Avril Lavigne, Under My Skin (2004 Arista Records)
4 out of 5 Stars.
I must admit that i was surprised by the growth both as a songwriter and in tone on her second cd. While i always enjoyed "Let Go", i never imagined that two years would make such a difference in world perspective, but leave it to Avril to prove me wrong:
Track One: Don't Tell Me - The weak link on this cd is out of the way almost immediately, and i can't deny hitting the skip button. don't get me wrong, this is our first taste of the developing songwriter, and she has some real gems. take this bon mot, if you will "Did you think that I was gonna give it up to you this time?/did you think that that was something i was gonna do (cry-e-yi-e-yi)" at best, it's half hearted Alanis-lite. on to track two.
Track Two: My Happy Ending - See, this should have been the first single. Sure, it's another angsty gem, but at least the hook is catchier, and the lyrics aren't cringe inducing (of course, true fanatics know the single worst of her songs with the best hook is "Get Over It" go find it. you'll laugh out loud. i promise) plus, she let's you know that this young lady is growing up, sneaking in the "S" word in the second verse. (oooh, dangerous, this one) But i am too cruel. there's effective use of string towards the end, and as break up songs go, i predict "My Happy Ending" will go down in the record books.
Track Three: Progenies of the Great Apocalypse - Here we see Avril take an abrupt shift in direction, emphasizing more on orchestration to embellish her hard worn death metal licks. Abandoning her usual canuck twang, she plays with a vocal synthesizers to sound closer to nordic black metal, not unlike that of Dimmu Borgir. instead of the same old song and dance about how boys suck, she moves on the the eternal battle between the Church and Satan Worshippers, proving this kid is better versed than we expected.
Track Four: Kid A - I was shocked at the inclusion of this track on her second cd. the vocals are barely decipherable, and heavily repetitive. I'm sorry, Avril, but "we've got heads on sticks/ you've got ventriloquists" over and over just doesn't do it for me. Nor, for that matter, does the reprise hidden after the last track featuring your good pal and musical prodigy John Mayer, which you add guitar to. I just don't get it.
Track Five: Blood on the Ice - Avril kicks out the jams, punk rock style, in this two minute ditty about hockey violence in her native Epanee. Short, punchy, and to the point. rock on!
Track Six: Satin in a Coffin - As unexpected as track three, Satin in a Coffin is reminiscent of some bizarre funeral procession, where Lavigne asks "Are You Dead or Are You Sleeping?/God, I Sure Hope You Are Dead" coupling her teenage angst with a snarky commentary of narcissism and death, Avril really outdoes herself. my only question, who's playing the banjo? Use them more!
Track Seven: Ready, Willing, Cain and Able - If you doubted by this point that Avril's not a little girl anymore, check out this slice of Sado-masochism. incorporating strings again, but in a more discordant fashion, she weaves the web of psychological assault, assuming the male role of sadist to an unheard girlfriend/wife/victim. "So Where's Your Love Song Now?" indeed.
Track Eight: Big Pimpin' - Ah, the life of a young Pop Punker. Our little lady is growing up, and spending G's. I wasn't aware that being a pimp was so punk rock, but then what do i know. And who is this mysterious "Jigga Man"? What have you been up to, miss?
Track Nine: Fall to Pieces - I think this song sounds a little like "Naked" from her first album ( I don't mean the actual lyrics, I mean the tune), but my friend who has this doesn't agree, so maybe I'm just crazy. It's mid-tempo and I love the bit near the end where it goes "want to know who you are want to know where to start..." This isn't much like the rest of the songs, so it's interesting. (editor's note: i got bored, so i copied the last track from Cdnow.com)
and that's it. Aside from the baffling bonus track with the aforementioned virtuoso John Mayer, Under My Skin is mostly a minor masterpiece. Everything about "Let Go" is still intact, but her amazing versatility practically guarantees Avril Lavigne a long career in this fickle music industry.
Next Week, I'll give you the heads up on more albums I heard. (I think.)