Alanis Morissette starts her tour in San Diego

    One hand in her pocket, the other one waving a peace sign, then flash forward to a few years later — both hands clean — an apt metaphor for international superstar Alanis Morissette. After a three-year hiatus, the Canadian singer-songwriter returns to release “”Under Rug Swept”” and support it in a 24-day, 17-stop U.S. tour. And Morissette says she’s never been better.

    She has much to be happy about.

    After the windfall of Grammy-induced sales for her other albums, “”Under Rug Swept”” still emerged No. 1. She’s also slated to appear with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Cher and Michael Jackson on the upcoming American Bandstand 50th Anniversary special. But more importantly, Morissette says she’s very happy with her single life, and is content with her new album despite expectations and criticism.

    Perhaps this has something to do with Morissette’s three-year break. If her last one found her more spiritual and subdued in “”Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie,”” then this hiatus would seem to continue that trend.

    Following her last release, Morissette not only took time off, but acted in “”Dogma”” and had a baby. She also participated in various humanitarian projects, including Music Without Borders, The Great Jubilee Concert For A Debt-Free World, and trips to Cuba, the Middle East and Eastern Europe to finish at the L.A. Museum of Tolerance. In fact, Morissette received a Global Tolerance Award on Dec. 11 in New York City for her philanthropism.

    Talk about clean hands.

    It’s no wonder that the music critics have proclaimed “”Under Rug Swept”” the product of a more mature and mellow — yet still moody — Alanis.

    The critics differ, however, on their opinion of Alanis Morissette’s first entirely self-produced album. Some call it an updated return to the raw style of the seminal “”Jagged Little Pill”” and a more focused album than the lengthy “”Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie.”” Others call it emotive but abstractly introspective and glutted with psychological wordplay, less deep than “”Infatuation Junkie”” and less intimately confessional than “”Jagged little pill.””

    There’s the catchy, omnipresent new single “”Hands Clean,”” a response to the relationship in “”You Oughta Know”” from the older man’s perspective. There’s the thumping, dense, guitar-driven “”21 Things I Want in a Lover,”” which sounds like classic Alanis. But there’s also the subdued, spiritual side present in the hopeful closer “”Utopia””: evidence of the mature Morissette, hands clean and rug swept.

    Hands clean or not, Alanis will most likely still have enough soiled ruminations and rockers to sweep her fans away this Friday. Mature and mellower? Or still moody and acrid?

    Only those at her tour will find out.

    Look to the hiatus calendar for ticket and show information.

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