Avril Lavigne's first record since the beginning of Barack Obama's second term (in other words, apparently centuries ago) shows that everyone's favorite stopped development case emerges from a physically and emotionally debilitating period. Chad Kroeger (Nickelback), her husband, divorced two, and was diagnosed with Lyme disease so severe that she was bedridden for a period of time. Alas, Head out of the water is not a concept album about the life of a tick terrified by liquids, nor an album about Kroeger; Lavigne insists that their break was amicable, and his ex is thanked in the credits for "to have started this album with me and to have completed it until the end".
The disc nevertheless has its own turn. Along with second-year falls, burst albums remain one of the most enduring traditions of pop. But rarely has anyone sounded so shipwrecked and rejuvenated during the same recording as on Head out of the waterwhich is a permanent mood set to music. The Lavigne heard at the beginning of the disc is almost a completely different person at the end; the hard part is determining which part you prefer.
For the first third of the album, Lavigne, heartbroken, is in sight. She fights "calm before the storm", is "locked in a cage called love" and "fell in love with the devil". These songs are largely imbued with the kind of bloody rain mud (surprise!) Nickelback records. They are like Blood on the treated tracks.
At about halfway through, she appears to have skipped an antidepressant on the way to the studio. As a teenager after her first big date, she dreams of "riding a bike at sunset by the ocean" and rhyming "pajamas" with "bananas" as he sings about his new love finding her sexy. The musical settings are much clearer: we are suddenly in the land of neatly pinched acoustic guitars, striking pop and independent living. "Dumb Blonde", his kiss to those who are "quick to condescend / Well, you think I'm empty, I'm not," marvelously discordant in the chorus of rap-metal in his chorus, with a cameo Nicki Minaj .
Whatever the mode in which she is, Lavigne has never seemed stronger or more confident. His half-yodel on "Love Me Insane" is a hook in itself. And both sides of Lavigne have their merits. She is cautiously optimistic about a new love in "Remembrance" and quite sensible about "Bigger Wow", which seems destined to be a summer jar.
But as on his second album, 2004 Under my skinshe is just more convincing and much less generic as a troubled adult. With its lugubrious and crackling snow beats, "Birdie" overcomes her cliché-to-verse lyrics and, her voice racing, frees herself from her burden. She also seems more convincing to compare herself to a Viking in the "Warrior" written by Kroeger than to follow the path of power to the ballad in "Tell Me It's Over." You hate telling someone to stay helpless, but the tumult really suits him.