Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sea Hag's Ultra Fabulous 2007 Music Review : Tori Amos

Tori Amos
American Girl Posse

I should probably put a disclaimer here that Tori Amos will always be one of my favorite musicians even when she releases such huge gorilla turds as "The Beekeeper" or "Strange Little Girls". "American Girl Posse" isn't as bad as some of her previous albums but it's still lacking something that her earlier work just hummed with.

Tori Amos released her first album "Little Earthquakes" over 15 years ago, and she filled it with songs about the anger, sadness and disillusionment that came with leaving your childhood behind and entering a world your parents didn't (and couldn't) prepare you for; a place where you were no longer protected by your father's love but were victim to men's cruel hearts and your own unintentionally hurtful whims and relationships. So you just can imagine the effect an album such as this had on me when I was 19 years old and heard it for the first time. It was more than an album, it was my anthem and my religion then (and in a way, it still is). So is it fair to hold up Tori Amos' later works (or anyone else's, for that matter) to one that set an impossible standard? Of course not. To do so would be to experience suicidal disappointment in every single song you'll ever hear for the rest of your life.

But Tori Amos continued to release wonderful things after "Little Earthquakes" for several years, and she experimented and tried new things musically and continued to put this incredible emotional edge to everything she did. Her lyrics have always been odd and cryptic, but they could create a feeling that would be otherwise impossible to get if you analyzed them literally. But her last few albums have really lacked that raw anger and cynicism that made her earlier stuff so damn good. What little outrage she has now isn't directed towards her own little world but out at the world at large, and there's where it falls in to the Boring Protest Songs Category which I despise. The other songs she's done have been just way too boring and lame. Here's what I mean:

This is from her song "Silent All These Years" from "Little Earthquakes":
So you found a girl who thinks really deep thoughts-
What's so amazing about really deep thoughts?
Boy, you'd best pray that I bleed real soon
How's that thought for you?

This is from "Precious Things", also from "Little Earthquakes":
So you can make me come
That doesn't make you Jesus.

See what I mean? Coy, flip, hurt, confused and angry angry angry.

And now here's some lyrics from "Yo George" on "American Doll Posse":
I salute to you Commander
and I sneeze.
'Cause I have, now,
An allergy
To your policies, it seems.
Where have we gone wrong, America?

And this is from "Original Sinsuality" on "The Beekeeper":
Original sin?
No, I don't think so
Original sinsuality
Original sin?
No, it should be
Original sinsuality
Original sin?
No, I don't think so
Original sinsuality

... yeah.

Music critics love to throw around the word 'accessible' when describing some albums, as in 'it was their most accessible album to date'. Most of the time I think they just like saying that because they're being pretentious asshats, but with Tori Amos her albums have stopped being accessible to me. I imagine that after years and years of songwriting that exposed her most vulnerable, personal thoughts it might have gotten exhausting for her, or maybe she's done with that time in her life now and wants to sing about other things. Maybe it's because she's married and a mother now, and she's singing about a place in her life that I can't relate to because I haven't experienced it yet and maybe never will. I don't know. But when I hear her new stuff I don't get the sense that's she's singing about things that come from her deep well of personal experience anymore. It all seems like she's one step removed now, like she's singing about something she saw on TV.

But I can tell you that "American Doll Posse" is supposed to be yet another conceptual album in which she sings songs as one of five alter personalities (she did something similar in "Strange Little Girls", her all-covers album, where every song was reworked and sung as a different 'character', and "Scarlet's Walk" where she took on the persona of Scarlet) but of course it all is just vaguely different shades of Tori Amos, and I'm not sure exactly why she continues to feel the need to try on other costumes when her own personality is so much more interesting.
But I will still keep buying her albums.

Recommended songs:
"Beauty Of Speed"
... you know what? Just buy "Little Earthquakes". Seriously.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My original thought was because she's married and a mother. But, I think it's because she's happy. I doubt there are very many interesting "artists" who are stable, happy people. The two don't seem to go together.