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Current concise reviews of the albums by adult alternative, contemporary, and crossover artists. Images of album artwork and links to both internet-based resources are always included. Click on the title to view the article.

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Under My Skin CD Cover
Image © Arista Records 2004  

(15 June 2004) Two years on from her debut album, Let Go, international fame and constant touring do not seem to have dulled Avril Lavigne’s appetite for a good tune and an acidic lyric. Her much-awaited second album Under My Skin (Arista (USA) 82876-61787-2, 2004) may lack some of the first album's quirky charm and varied dynamics, but she has returned with 13 strong songs that will disappoint few.

To keep herself fresh, Avril, or perhaps her record company, have chosen some brand new collaborators, including talented former Evanescence guitarist Ben Moody. All the performances are excellent, as you would expect, and Avril is in good form, though neither her voice nor song writing show any sign of great development.

"Take me away" opens the album with a tense verse, before a rousing, angry chorus, while "Together" hinges on its sing-song chorus and some excellent keyboards. Single "Don’t Tell Me" is one of the album's standout songs, full of the charm and attitude that made the first album so good. "He Wasn't" really rocks, a great piece of punky pop that Sum 41 would be proud of. Predictably, this is followed by a ballad "How does it feel," before excellent, catchy rocker "My Happy Ending."

"Nobody’s Home" is a little more melancholic, before the unusual "Forgotten" with its vaguely gothic piano and vocals leading to an aggressive chorus. "Who knows" is another fine song with an anthemic chorus and an uplifting lyric. "Fall to Pieces" represents some calm before the storm, prior to the crunching nu-metal of "Freak Out." The power ballad "Slipped Away" closes the album proper, before the delightful punk anthem in the making "I Always get what I want" provides a welcome bonus track.

With every song, except perhaps the more 'difficult' "Forgotten" a possible single, this is an amazingly consistent album in terms of song writing and every chorus is right on the button. However, it is also its partial downfall. There are only so many times one can listen to a brooding verse and a crunching, nu-metal chorus over and over again before longing for a little variation. In searching for potential singles, the album’s greatest asset--the character and youthful charm of its singer--has been somewhat eroded.

Nonetheless, this will keep Avril's fans happy as she heads out onto the arena circuit during the summer of 2004, even if some of us were hoping for something a little more adventurous.--Stephen Lambe in Cheltenham, England

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