|Avril Lavigne - Under My Skin|
|Music Disc Reviews DualDisc|
|Written by Dan MacIntosh|
|Tuesday, 08 February 2005|
If you’re expecting Avril Lavigne to be all grown up by this, her second album, you’ll likely be disappointed. Nevertheless, Under My Skin does reveal at least a few signs of a budding artistic maturity. And even though this album doesn’t contain any odes to sk8er bois, it continues to chronicle Lavigne’s relatively complicated teen celebrity life.
Lavigne vents her feelings from the very get-go with “Take Me Away” when she exclaims, “I can’t handle this confusion.” But rather than simply whine about it all, Lavigne vows, “I’m going to live today like it’s my last day” on “Who Knows,” and states during “Freak Out,” “I won’t compromise.” Her youthful impatience comes through during “Forgotten,” however, when she lets a “Do you get it now?” slip into her lyric. Another positive development is the way Lavigne has begun to look outside herself for inspiration. “Freak Out,” for instance, is a song of encouragement, which basically talks about standing up for oneself. And the video for “Nobody’s Home” appears to empathize with the plight of a runaway girl. Wow, Avril actually realizes there are other inhabitants on the planet beside herself!
Musically, Lavigne remains on a middle ground somewhere between a rocker wannabe and a slightly more aggressive pop singer. There are few ballads, such as “How Does It Feel,” but upbeat rockers like “He Wasn’t” mostly carry the day.
This DualDisc also includes the entire album in enhanced stereo, as well as a couple of videos, a photo gallery and a behind the scenes featurette. The latter is the best of all, because it finds Lavigne dropping her tough girl pose momentarily and just being an excited kid. One scene where she thrills at making a royal guardsman in London smile is simply priceless. It isn’t a rock and roll moment; it’s purely a human moment.
Lavigne has been referred to as the anti-Britney Spears. Although she has significantly more depth than many other modern pop tarts, she’s by no means at the respected level of, say, a Joni Mitchell – at least, not yet. Nevertheless, Under My Skin is not skin-deep superficial like the rest of the Disney nation, and we give her props for that.
Producers Don Gilmore, Butch Walker and Raine Maida have done a good job of giving this recording plenty of sonic (guitar) crunch, without ever sacrificing the music’s necessary melodic hooks. Better still, Lavigne’s voice is tracked so it doesn’t come off screechy. Instead, her powerful singing melds well with the rest of this recording’s instrumentation. Nevertheless, there is still the lingering impression that Avril’s production team did not take full advantage of the enhanced stereo technology for this release. This mix is particularly light on the low end, for instance. Also, except for its few instances of strings and keyboards, there are few bells and whistles coloring the surround sound arrangements other than straightforward guitar, bass, and drums. Lastly, much of this CD’s percussion is buried too deeply in the mix – especially for a rock album. The song “Who Knows,” which is one of the few numbers where the drumming is crisp and the cymbal work is more noticeable, especially highlights this essential element’s conspicuous absence. So you might say Under My Skin is severely under-skinned.