She could've gone either way: Use some pop sense to temper her
eccentric ways into cutting-edge hits - or wallow in
Take a wild guess which direction this spooky piano-lady picked.
One Kate Bush in the world is plenty, thank you - not to mention P. J. Harvey. And wouldn't you know it - Tori Amos
manages to clone the most annoying aspects of both singers into a nauseating melange of morose piano noodlings, cryptic
lesbian overtones and unbearable over-emoting.
With a voice that runs the gamut from breathy super-sensitivity to sneering harpy, the "songs" - for lack of a better term,
for Amos has abandoned coherent arrangements in favor of musical performance art - feature such lyrical gems as: "So I
chased down your posies, your pansies in my hosies;" "It's time to tell the world we both know it was a girl back in
Bethlehem;" and "I need a big loan from the girl zone."
The point? If you can stand this almost 70-minute ordeal of painful introspection, you figure it out. It must be some
personal vendetta against the male species that only Amos can explain.
Like any formidable talent that goes out of their way to make a God-awful record, Amos hits the mark once in a while -
probably by accident.
There's no doubt that she can play the piano. And it's not just any old piano, either - it's a Bosendorfer grand, the
Rolls-Royce of keyboards. The production and sounds are beautiful. Horn sections, organic machine percussion and
gospel choirs serve as an intermittently interesting backdrop to Amos' musings (she also plays a good deal of harpsichord,
a thin, buzzy instrument that was probably annoying even in Mozart's day).
Shorter interludes like Mr. Zebra and Way Down actually work quite well, but more often than not, Amos sabotages her
best ideas. While starting with promise, the songs Professional Widow and Little Amsterdam end up being unlistenable.
On one track, Amos sings the line: "I'm quite sure I'm in the wrong song." But it's not the song - it's the whole album.
- Mike Ross
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