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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Avril Lavigne: Under My Skin


1) Take Me Away; 2) Together; 3) Don't Tell Me; 4) He Wasn't; 5) How Does It Feel; 6) My Happy Ending; 7) No­body's Home; 8) Forgotten; 9) Who Knows; 10) Fall To Pieces; 11) Freak Out; 12) Slipped Away; 13*) I Always Get What I Want.

It actually takes a few listens to this album — a feat that most sensible, reasonable people will feel no need to perform — to understand that the noun phrases «Avril Lavigne» and «creative growth» are not fully incompatible within a sentence. Yes, the girl's career does follow a curve, and there is a certain pinch of interest in following it.

Obviously, I am not talking about the much discussed change of image: instead of the overdriven skater brat of Let Go, Under My Skin gives us a black-and-white, Deeply Tragic, goth-over­toned Lavigne, all set on «maturation», a.k.a. inflating teenage tribulations to cosmic proportions. It is quite telling that one of the hit songs, 'Nobody's Home', was co-written with ex-Evanescence guitar player Ben Moody: the influence of his band's skill at merchandising doom and gloom is all over this record. (I will, however, refrain from deep discussions on whose metaphysical con­ception of art — Lavigne's or Amy Lee's — has contributed more to our spiritual development). The overall best thing I can say about this shift of image, though, is that it doesn't make things any worse. If you are a poseur by nature, it doesn't really matter if you are also a chameleon.

The real reason why Under My Skin is a tad more interesting is that Lavigne apparently takes this songwriting business seriously, and that there is a significant jump in song quality from the previous record. Maybe it is her new songwriting partner, fellow Canadian Chantal Kreviazuk, pushing her on to new levels, or perhaps professional obligations spurred her on to digest musical influences other than Blink-182 and Matchbox 20, but, whatever be the case, most of the songs on Under My Skin at least qualify as semi-decent mainstream grunge / pop punk in which music, vocal melodies, and lyrics generally serve one and the same purpose, and that purpose is a tiny bit smarter than just «rock out, dude».

See, normally, an album like that should only provoke teeth-grinding reactions. All of these songs with their exaggerated darkness, tales of breakups, self-exile, PAIN PAIN PAIN — the fuckin' brat is twenty years old, what does she know about pain (and let us not start about the age of Ju­liet, whom we only know as a Shakesperian projection anyway)? Yet the obligatory three listens went down smoothly, in fact, each next one was smoother than the one before. How come the barf bag is still empty?

Hooks and craft, baby. Kreviazuk (who, by the way, is 10 years older than Lavigne and certainly qualifies better for writing such an album) and whoever else she is working with really did a solid job of providing her with well-written choruses — and Lavigne does an equally good job at sin­ging them. This is where her vocal skills really come in handy: nowhere near diva-level, so the songs don't come across as blown tremendously out of proportion, but still loud, strong, and ex­pressive enough to minimize all the damage from «posing».

Hilariously, the most memorable song on the album is also its least typical — the vapid, girlish pop-punk anthem 'He Wasn't', played at breakneck speed and winning us over with its ABBA-like "uh huh"s. (Lavigne must have sensed it herself, or else it wouldn't have served as the blue­print for just about all of The Best Damn Thing). The only other song that is sort of a «stand out» is the already mentioned 'Nobody's Home', because it does, indeed, sound somewhat like Evanes­cence-lite, with more complex vocal overdubs than usual, falsettos rising into screaming and background guitars that actually seem to at least be wanting to shape their sound into some sort of complex melodic figure (not that they could ever hope to — complex melodic figures are harmful ballast for Avril's legions of fans).

The rest... well, actually, I would be interested in seeing if someone could do something with this kind of material if it were freed from the monotonous grasp of post-grunge guitars. Phasing? Wah-wahs? A string quartet? A Mellotron? How about «Avril Lavigne and The London Sym­phony Orchestra»? Or at least spicing it up with bits and pieces of Eastern motives, à la Big Guru Alanis? Until then, Under My Skin is a curious anomaly — a predictable failure at an attempt to add «deep» and «cool» to the list of keywords, yet, in spite of all odds, a thoroughly listenable one. Plus, 'He Wasn't' is, indeed, one of the giggliest pop tunes of the decade.

Check "Under My Skin" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Under My Skin" (MP3) on Amazon


  1. How can you not mention 'My Happy Ending' at all? It's THE song to be saved if we have to delete all Avril tracks from human memory but one.

    I will personally fight to preserve all, sigh... all of you sinful elitists are going on a highway to hell and be shot down in flames there.

  2. "All of these songs with their exaggerated darkness, tales of breakups, self-exile, PAIN PAIN PAIN — the fuckin' brat is twenty years old, what does she know about pain?"

    This seems to be a complaint you bring up a lot in these new reviews. Me being even younger than even Avril was when she recorded this I can't exactly agree with the "all young people should be happy" attitude, but I can agree that they shouldn't express their pain and anguish in such a stupid way.
    And really, what does Avril have to feel pain and anguish about anyway? I don't know anything about her personal life and feel no need to find out, but certainly judging by her lyrics she's living pretty much the same life as say, John Lennon was way back in 1963, and he sure didn't feel a need to whine incessantly in all of his song from the period. Actually now that I think about I guess that's where say your complaining over Adele's lyrics come from as well, no matter how deep or gloomy or spiritual all these brats try to appear they're still singing about the exact same things John Lennon and Paul McCartney used to sing about, without expressing anything new, yet presenting it as oh-so important.
    So I guess the problem isn't that Avril is twenty years old, but that she is perfectly happy being twenty years old, or more correctly, a completely stereotypical twenty year old making no attempt to break away from the standard mindset of her generation. And hey, surely anyone who's perfectly happy being a complete stereotype would be annoying if they put a lot of emphasis on their lyrics, whether that some one is a twenty year old girl, a truck-driving redneck or a Berkeley liberal arts professor.

    Ah whatever, you've probably already reached all these conclusions a long time ago. I guess I was just still a bit peeved about the "19-year old boys should be singing about wanting to hold your hand" comment in the Adele review. I guess a comment I would more agree with would be "19-year old boys wanting to hold your hand should be singing about wanting to hold your hand, not trying to disguise their wanting as something profound and deeply spiritual".

    Anyway, I listened to this album as well, and what do you know, it did go down easier, even if nothing quite reached the guilty pleasure level of 'Complicated' (I'm still singing that stupid chorus and I only sat through the song once).

  3. Hello, i'm an elitist pig and i like some of the tracks here a little bit more then i supposed to. Should i go through anonymous avriloholics therapy ? I'm scared, cause if my elitist pig comrades would know, they would make my life far more "Complicated" and tits. Don't Tell Me How Does It Feel, Take Me Away to My Happy Ending, before i Freak Out and Fall To Pieces!

  4. I like to listening to rock, old and new, Aerosmith to Zepplin, reggae, metal, grunge, alternative, indie rock, etc., and I have to say that I really enjoy listening to Avril Lavigne's album 'Under My Skin' is in my top favorite top 10 or 20 albums of all time. I have given this album to a few my friends and everyone of them has liked this album. Why not just judge the album by how it plays and the mood it creates and forget all the rest of the peripheral stuff and just simply enjoy it? If someone has a problem with me listening to Avril I really don't a sh*t; it is music and it is a simple pleasure so why not just enjoy it; it really doesn't need to be complicated with all this stupid peripheral crap. If someone thinks it is not cool for me to listen to Avril Lavigne, I see it as their problem not mine. My father always told me when growing up, when it comes to music, if you like it, buy it, listen to it and don't worry about what anyone else thinks about it, and it has worked for me all my life and I have never lost any friends living this way, so why should I stop listening to an album I enjoy listening to so much? I am currently getting in to listening to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album "Mojo" (released in 2010) it is such a great album, don't miss this one.

  5. I guess I could never listen to this music. I like humour in every possible way: the experimental-artsy approach (Zappa, Beefheart, Eno, Roxy), the Pop-Rock approach (Sparks, 10cc, Kinks), the nerdy New Wave approach (Byrne, Partridge, Costello) or the nerdy post-modern approach (Frank Black). I mean, I thought I was a dark and troubled guy and I really love darkness and unhappiness if it's expressed in a graceful way, but after Layne Stanley or Ian Curtis everyone seems sissy.

    Sometimes I wish the glorious Buzzcocks hadn't existed, but I guess Pop Punk would have emerged anyway.

  6. I heard this album when it was brand new. I was in middle school. It was a guilty pleasure. Now it's a not-guilty semi-pleasure. It goes down easily, and it's true that there isn't much resonance here (if any). However, it should be thought of as more of just a fun pop record, no matter how much Avril wants us to take her seriously.

  7. So what do you think of Evanescence?