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This review is from: American Doll Posse (Audio CD)
It may not come as much of a surprise to many Tori fans that on her tenth full lenth release she has finally ditched her habit of inhabiting different archetypes for her various songs, going one step further in creating her own full blown girl-group of individual characters, each with their own personality and musical style.
This concept provides numerous dress-up opportunities for Tori, much like her covers album 'Strange Little Girls,' on which she posed as a different 'girl' for each song title in the record's artwork. With many Tori albums, almost all of which have at least a loose and often obscure concept behind them, it is very difficult to see where each track fits into the proposed concept, not least due to Tori's obscure lyrical style. Similarly, with this album it is very difficult to tell the different pseudonyms apart. Their creation is supposedly due to the different musical styles presented. Yet the style of the songs does not seem different enough each time to cause the listener to group them together under the different 'singers' on offer. The songs that do stand out stylistically, such as the bubblegum-pop of 'Programmable Soda,' or the euphoric electro-dance of 'Bouncing Off Clouds' are one offs, without obvious sister-songs or matching lyrical style elsewhere.
Having mentioned lyrical style, this record is more obviously political than any of Amos' previous efforts. This is hardly surprising considering the ever-adventurous nature of her writing and the current state of her own country. No new ground is broken here, but there is a definate shift towards the personal, suiting this songstress's music better than the all too common distanced rant. The opening track entitled 'Yo George' hardly needs further lyrical content to explain itself, whereas 'Dark Side Of The Sun' touches on the effects of unnecessary war on those in the front line backward. Care has been taken not to make this a political album, just as Tori is not a political artist. Despite the 'American' in the record's title, only the two tracks mentioned show any obvious inclination towards any specific theme at all, such inclination being a rare occurance in any of Tori's music.
No doubt many fans will have their own differing opinions about which tracks are 'obviously' sung by which characters. But the real theme of this album is an artist's musical, and personal exploration of herself. Styles definately differ more widely on this album than any of her's before it, the piano taking a backseat to other instruments such as guitar and bass even more than in her last two, more commercial, records. But the unmistakeable Tori vocal is still as prominant, original, soaring and lilting as ever. Similarly, her penchant for melody and an often excessive amount of mellisma is preserved. Only originality of structure and harmony is compromised slightly, the focus more on originality and diversity of style. Fans may welcome the ambition of the 23 track epic, or mourn the loss of their favourite artists 'safe' methods already honed to perfection on her first six or so albums. They may feel a bit of both. But no-one can say that this is not an impressive and interesting achievement.
It is enticingly complex in concept, yet quite inaccessable for most of us because of it, different enough to alienate some, and to impress many. Pushing the boundaries is no doubt something Amos is proud of, and even by her own standards she has managed it with this album, regardless of the direction of quality her music has taken. One can only wonder what imaginative, untouched upon themes she will think up next for her inevitably ambitious, accomplished and dextrous follow up.