Jan 30, 2002 at 12:00 am

Problematic is the evolution of an out-of-control ego.

Luckily, Melissa Etheridge found an appropriate career match for her psychosis. The woman boils in a stew of obsession — fanatical on obtaining, maintaining and regaining (once lost) the possession of a lover. This monomania verges on ostracizing the audience because it’s so utterly one-dimensional. Oblivious to all save her pumping heart, Etheridge never pushes further, failing to draw conclusions or relate personal dramas to larger issues at hand. Frankly, that may or may not be rock and roll’s job. But how many people really want to be chained to Melissa Etheridge’s roller coaster of desire, forever?

On Skin, Etheridge takes her bread-and-butter rock sound, then chills, electronifies and edges it. The strongest track, “Lover Please,” fuses an anticipatory, dirty acoustic guitar riff with a driving and masculine electric, then tosses in some ubiquitous and hip beats along with one scary electronic vocal solo.

But there ain’t a whole lotta surprises here, just decent rock and roll embellished with beats, loops and distortions that are linked with artist-entities such as Spectrasonics, Loopalicious and Kat’s Wicked Drums.

Lyrically challenged, these songs require the listener to wade knee-deep through a pool of clichés. Some lines would get shred to bits in a high-school poetry workshop. Here’s an emotional-spiritual breakdown of each song:

1) “Lover Please”: I hurt because you do this.
2) “The Prison”: I ache because you do this.
3) “Walking On Water”: I hurt and I need a miracle.
4) “Down To One”: I hurt because I’m alone.
5) “Goodnight”: I hurt because I’m alone.
6) “It’s Only Me”: I hurt because you left.
7) “I Want To Be In Love”: I hurt because I want to be in love.
8) “Please Forgive Me”: I hurt while I woo.
9) “The Different”: I hurt, I’m mysterious, alluring and I woo.
10) “Heal Me”: I hurt and I want you to heal me.

Fine and dandy if you want to drown in a sea of Melissa. But ultimately it’s as bearable as several hours at a coffee shop with a friend capable of only talking about him- or herself, incessantly. Tolerable for a blip or two, but soon thereafter toxic.

E-mail Kyle Norris at [email protected].