** 1/2 AVRIL LAVIGNE,
"UNDER MY SKIN" (RCA)
Spunky, Hot Topic-outfitted Canadian grrrl-rocker Avril Lavigne is a
teen-pop phenom that discerning adult rock fans can actually admire without
feeling (too) guilty. Sure, she's as sleekly marketed as Britney, Christina
and their many wannabes. Her 2002 debut "Let Go" sold 14 million copies, and
earlier this year, she launched her second album and its hit single "Don't
Tell Me" with a tour of some two dozen shopping malls.
Nevertheless, the 17-year-old Canadian is a much more encouraging role
model for her pre-teen fans: She can actually sing (though she does have a
tendency to screech in the arena-rock choruses); she fronts a pretty kickin'
(if generic) pop-punk band; she plays a passable rhythm guitar, and she has
a hand in writing her rollicking and tuneful "troubles of my teenage life"
anthems (albeit with help from the likes of Ben Moody, the former tunesmith
in Evanescence, and fellow Canadian Chantal Kreviazuk).
Since Alanis Morissette (yet another Canadian!), the mainstream pop riot
grrrl of an earlier generation, is now consumed with spirituality and bogged
down by loathsome self-importance, somebody needs to fill this role, and
Lavigne does a great job at it. The one caveat is that while there is still
plenty of catchy anger to cheerfully bounce along with on the car radio, as
a whole, the songs on "Under My Skin" simply aren't as much fun as those on
the last disc.
Instead of the endearing crush song "Sk8er Boi," we get "Don't Tell Me,"
a song about just saying no (an admirable message if you're the father of a
teenage girl, but a real drag if you're a hot-to-trot youngster). And where
the last disc gave us the absurdly infectious kiss-off of "Complicated,"
this one gives us the maudlin "Slipped Away" (about the death of Lavigne's
grandfather), the sappy, piano-driven romantic ballad "Together" and the
considerably heavier kiss-off of "My Happy Ending."
Kids today, they grow up so fast. But listen up, Avril: Don't be in such
a rush. Maturity is way overrated, especially in the world of rock 'n' roll.