One of the most outspoken, creative singer/songwriters of our time returns with her ninth studio album and she's brought company. American Doll Posse
features Tori Amos in a way we've never heard her: as five distinct characters who combine to make a complete woman. After centuries of being dismembered, literally and figuratively, by the ruling patriarchy the feminine essence has reassembled to take back the power. In addition to Amos, the quartet creates a compelling portrait of the role of women today expressed through one of Amos's most wide ranging albums, both thematically and musically.
In an era of digital downloads and singles, Tori Amos embraces the concept album in a sprawling 23-song oratorio. Firing across the American psychological, social, and political landscape, she takes on the state of the world, war, and feminism. To help her, she adopts five personas--her American Doll Posse--who take their characteristics from Greek gods, but not their names: Clyde, Pip, Isabel, Santa, and Tori. You need a scorecard to keep track, but don't worry. It's still Tori Amos, bending syllables in improbable pretzels with rippling piano themes and choruses that threaten to go Broadway at any moment. Amos vents her political spleen through "Isabel," leaving no doubt as to her targets on tracks like "Yo George," and comments on our impersonal age and computer addiction with "Digital Ghost." That's sung by the character "Tori," who is reputedly based on Demeter and Dionysus, representing the split between Amos's earth-mother side and her wilder, more libertine tendencies. Anti-war and pro-feminist themes are plastered across American Doll Posse
like sloganeering posters. "Dark Side of the Sun" laments both sides of the war, including the Islamic extremists who lay down their lives "for some sick promise of heaven." Amos adopts a big '80s rock sound on many tracks, with guitarist Mac Aladdin pealing off Brian May-style guitar licks over an arena-rock beat. It's where Amos details a more personal sound that American Doll Posse
leaves a lasting impression. "Girl Disappearing," sung by "Clyde," holds echoes of the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby," not only because of the string quartet and nostalgic tone, but the updated tale of a woman losing herself. "Smokey Joe" brims with dark atmospheres, Robert Fripp-like guitar sustains, and Amos's most elaborate vocal arrangements, interweaving two sets of lyrics for "Pip." More than a concept album, American Doll Posse
is a convergence experience, mixing online blogs from each character, videos, MySpace sites, and more. --John Diliberto