It’s been twenty-six years since Alanis Morissette released Jagged Little Pill. The album was a sensation, launching her to pop superstardom. The relative suddenness of her transition from obscurity to omnipresence combined with her youth made it see like a free ride, but she had already paid, putting in her time in the wilds of Canadian showbiz. Her songs were statements of purpose, famously filled with rage at being underestimated and betrayed, but also hitting a wider range of emotions. There were expressions of emerging identity and understanding. It was precisely the sort of wide-ranging, articulate, forceful work of human contradiction — angst and celebration in one bundle wrapped tighter than a fist — that dudes with guitars delivered to routine adoration for their great and enduring rock artistry. Morissette was dismissed as a fluke when her follow-up albums didn’t reach the same blockbuster status. The next two releases topped the Billboard chart and tallied platinum sales, but whatevs, I guess. She wasn’t serious like Eddie Vedder.
Jessica Dobson, the frontperson and main creative force behind Deep Sea Diver, was eleven years old when Jagged Little Pill hit record stores. It was a good age to have an album like that a north star to help navigate the choppy seas of adolescence. Dobson acknowledged as much when Deep Sea Driver released a cover of “Hand in My Pocket” this week. According to Dobson, Morissette was one of the only females in the world of music that she could look up to.
“As a kid who always felt whirlpooled around in my emotions, I remember always feeling a deep peace when watching the music video and loving all of the juxtapositions she sang about,” Dobson writes, undoubtedly mirroring the experiences of multitudes of women of her generation.
Damien Jurado pitches in with vocals on the cover, but the track belongs to Dobson. She conveys the fragile, unsettled emotions of the lyrics, employing her own version of the unique phrasings that helped make Morissette so distinctive in the first place. I especially like the way Dobson gives a bumpy-road lope to the line “And the other one is playing the piano,” with the last word intoned like its got a great big Y right in the middle of it. Morissette might have herself a hit Broadway show and a tour doing brisk business on the Gen-X nostalgia circuit, but it still feels like a more serious reappraisal of her contributions is overdue. The Deep Sea Diver version of “Hand in My Pocket” is good enough that I can imagine that reappraisal starting right here.