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Tori Lights a Fire
on 23 April 2007
Tori Amos shed the red hair, split into five personalities and decided to rock. As a result, American Doll Posse is her most vibrant, eclectic and relevant album in years. It's sort of a compromise between the tight production of Choirgirl and the sprawling anger of Pele -- all translated by Pip, Santa, Isabel, Clyde and Tori.
Who are they? Doesn't matter. They're wigs. They're dresses. They're elaborate excuses for Tori to scream things like "You've been skankin' around with your talentless trash!" or whisper, over a trilling mandolin, "Your divine creator was a velvet revolution." And it certainly sounds like she'd rather praise the rock gods of the velvet age than the bearded patron of conservative America. When she sings "You've still got that something!," with a tongue-in-cheek Kiss guitar roaring beneath her, she might as well be saying "In rock we trust." After all, music has done more for America in the 2000's than the government. Tori is Patti Smith in "Teenage Hustling," she's Stevie Nicks in "Secret Spell," she's David Bowie in "You Can Bring Your Dog," and she's Tori at her best in "Father's Son" (never have her harmonies sounded so haunting).
Somewhere between tracks 15 and 18, though, things start to blend together. The songs that work best on this album are the ones that announce themselves easily, like the power ballad "Digital Ghost" (Electric guitars AND a tambourine? You can almost smell the hair gel... and, yes, that's the best kind of rock nostalgia). However, "Roosterspur Bridge," "Beauty of Speed" and "Almost Rosey" all sound like variations of the same idea. She's even less successful when railing directly on Bush ("Yo George") or the war on terror ("Dark Side of the Sun"). In the latter, she sings, "How many young men have to lay down their lives and their love... for some sick promise of heaven?" Lyrics like that are as cliche as any line pulled from Scarlet's "Gold Dust." But Tori was meant to be vague and mysterious -- which is why it's so refreshing to hear that mystery get an intense and immediate production in Posse. Case in point: the ambient, thumping "Smokey Joe" that sounds like her cover of Slayer's "Raining Blood" with a vitriolic pulse.
Yes, there's a lot of mimicry here. But it's more homage than anything else... a reminder of what really keeps the Big Wheel turning in this country.
BEST TRACKS: "Father's Son," "Digital Ghost," "Teenage Hustling," "Bouncing off Clouds," "Smokey Joe"