Reviews, By rheiner, 30th April, 2009
Tori Amos’ highly anticipated Abnormally Attracted To Sin hits stores May 15. Here’s one of the first reviews of the album, as well as a preview of some of the stand out tracks.
Tori Amos’ tenth studio album seems to have crept up out of nowhere. Her last work, American Doll Posse was a sprawling, angry, politically driven piece that – with 23 tracks, five personae, blogs, costumes, thematic overdrive and rumours that its tour would be Amos’s last – felt like she’d thrown everything she still wanted to do artistically into one massive final project.
Abnormally Attracted To Sin, by comparison, arrives relatively light on the ‘concept’. When it’s released on May 15, the album will be accompanied by a dvd of visual vignettes, but even this suggests a focus pared back to the songs themselves. In that spirit, I decided to sit down and simply record my impression of each track as it came; a piece by piece review that didn’t necessarily require any overarching narrative.
Check out our photos from Tori Amos’ 2007 American Doll Posse performance at the Sydney Opera House.
Give – A killer opening: all drums and synths, with a dark and sultry feel. The heavy loops make it sound like a forgotten track from To Venus And Back. The vocals are right up front in the mix, the piano and guitars hovering in the background while Amos shifts back and forth between soaring high notes and abrasive lower tones. If the rest of the album sounds like this I will be very very excited.
Welcome To England – So much for that. I know that this is the first single, but the mix of acoustic and electric guitars and inoffensive 4/4 drums just make it sound like Angels – a song so startlingly average that even Amos has only played it live once or twice. Three mediocre lead singles from three albums in a row is just too many. (Let’s face it: “MILF” bridge aside, Big Wheel is a hokey bit of country pop.) However, there’s an underlying current of melancholy in the Welcome To England line that just saves this one, and makes me think this one will make more sense when its visual vignette gives it a bit more context.
Strong Black Vine – We are back to the contradictory Amos of old, the same one that laments “Boy, I can’t save you from that evil faith” while shouting “submission is my mission”, surrender turned on its head into something ultimately powerful. There’s the same drive as Give with the guitars and drums now foregrounded, and Amos’s trademark, religion-heavy symbolism. It’s going to be a show stopper live, especially the lingering, powerful, drawn out “concentrate” at the end.
Flavor – This is everything that’s good about Amos’s past work. With a refrain of “what does it feel like, this orbital ball” and the simple looped beats, it’s the lovechild of 1000 Oceans and The Beekeeper drifting at the edge of the universe. Loneliness, space, and the inescapable sadness of this time in history. The unrelenting desire that there must be some being, somewhere, in the darkest reaches of the universe that is making sense of what is going on here on Earth, providing the redemption that we seem to fall so consistently short of.
Not Dyin’ Today – Now I’m really confused. The broad country twang and sly grin in the vocals feel like we’re almost back in Y Kant Tori Read days. From Flavor, I feel like I’ve crash-landed in some weird off-Broadway production. I know Amos is currently working on a musical but this just leaves me speechless. “Dyin’, fryin’, I’d rather have a lie in”? This is getting dangerously close to the territory covered in Ireland and Ode To My Clothes. I can hardly process it. Even the throwaway “Neil’s thrilled” reference feels tacked on.
Maybe California – The acutely written, simply emotional ballad that Amos is so good at. A reminder of her ability to inhabit a character so completely, to move beyond herself into the realm of pure, heartbreaking, storytelling. This is the emotional piece that you know is going to break your heart when she does it live, solo, and that works here because the soft drums and strings are hiding in the background, where they belong. This is the kind of song where the layers of the story accumulate slowly over repeated listens.
Curtain Call – This feels like Amos is hitting her stride, driving the album forward into a musical darkness that’s only been a tease thus far. It’s a duel between a relentlessly repetitive piano and wistful guitar; a southern drawl in the vocals and loneliness in the lyrics. The looking glass reference harks back to Scarlet’s Walk, but in a way that pulls the earlier work forward to where she is now.
Fire To Your Plain – And now: back to country Tori. If this had followed on from Not Dyin’ Today it would have been perfect, but the oscillation between the two disparate styles is starting to get confusing. It’s almost like Amos couldn’t decide between the two sonic concepts she had for the album and just threw them both together. Singles may be a thing of the past, but this, Not Dyin’ Today and 500 Miles could easily have been put out as an iTunes-only EP called “Abnormally Attracted to the Middle of the Road”.
Police Me – The common thread of the last three albums – at 17, 18, and 23 tracks respectively – was that they sagged aimlessly around the middle. Chalk up number four. Yes, the lyrics are obtuse and sexual. Yes, it’s slow but catchy. Yes, it’s rescued by some nice electro touches towards the end and a “perhaps the answer to the question lies in the question” refrain, with echoey voice and guitars all over the place. But it’s just lost among the shifting styles and the vocals sound like even Amos knows it.
That Guy – I have to ask – What is going on?! There’s a piano. A brass band. Strings. Are we back on Broadway? It sounds like it should be an awful awful mess, but somehow… somehow it works. She should have released this as the first single and watched the blogosphere go into meltdown. It’s reassuring that, ten albums in, Amos can still throw even the most hardcore fans across the room.
Abnormally Attracted To Sin – Continuity be damned: this is a dreamy piece of atmospherics, and abstract, poetic language. “Impeccable peccadillo” is a perfect lyric, although she does sound like she’s saying “marmalade” when she intones “abnormally addicted to sin”. There are multi-tracked vocals, and a pack of guitars that come out of nowhere. There are strings, and bridges. When I first heard this was the title of the album part of me died inside. Now, with one listen of the title track, it has been reborn. Marvellous.
500 Miles – I was terrified this was going to be a Proclaimers cover. One minute in and I wished it were. And then I calmed down a bit and realised that the lyrics were actually quite beautiful. It’s going to work much better live when it’s stripped back to a solo piano and a spotlight, and doesn’t sound so very much like someone put To Venus And Back and The Beekeeper in a blender and just pressed “pulse” for four minutes.
Mary Jane – I no longer care where we are. The sultry, jazz bar piano, the complicated story telling, the obvious delight in sensuality – I see Amos on stage in some closet-sized 30s cabaret bar; cigarette holder dangling from one corner of her mouth, partly obscured by smoke, the entire audience indulging in the innuendo of the title. She is going to do this live, and follow it up with Hoochie Woman and the audience is going to go wild. Wigs may be involved. Again.
Starling – There’s a weird percussion on this track that almost sounds like Popcorn, but it keeps the theme of upfront vocals, and that’s where Amos is least likely to put a foot wrong. “He screams in black and white” is one fantastic lyric among many. Again, on a shorter album this would have been a standout track, but, 14 tracks in, it feels a little lost here.
Fast Horse – In a perfect world, this will be performed live with an interpolation of America’s Horse With No Name – a cover I desperately hoping Amos would pull out on the Scarlet’s Walk tour. The southern drawl and the military precision are a reminder that Amos still has that uncanny ability to tap into the soul of America: the open spaces, the harsh desert, the sun beating down on the singer-songwriter playing her piano on the salt plains. The album could end here in the heat haze, on the final vibrating note of the Rhodes keyboard, and I would be totally satisfied.
Ophelia – This piano ballad feels a little like coming full circle. Ophelia, Veronica, Charlotte, Alison – here we have a cast of archetypes that stand in for thousands dying to taste the “cosmic flavour” – lyrics that echo back to earlier tracks and (finally) give the album some kind of coherence. We’re almost back to just Amos and her piano, back to where it all started. “Ophelia, you must remember…”
Lady In Blue – Another cast of women in blue blown to the stars. It’s an unusual move for Amos: the 7 minute epic is usually buried in the middle of the album, and the instrumental last half is a welcome a break with tradition. If the album didn’t seem so overstuffed, the last four tracks would build to a powerful musical and lyrical crescendo. After 65 minutes though, this seems to take too long to get to where it’s going, and I’m just a little exhausted after trying to keep up with all the shifts in style.
My first thought on finishing this first listen: I wish Amos was a more decisive editor. Pared down to twelve tracks, this would be a killer of an album. Some harsh decisions would have been required, but every writer knows that sometimes you have to kill your darlings. Or at least exile them to the Island of B-Sides. That said, Abnormally Attracted To Sin contains some of the best songs Amos has ever recorded. Tracks like Give, Flavor, Fast Horse, and the title track build on the best of her past work and take it forward to a new place – a dark world of spirituality, sin, loops, politics, and the powerful, poetic lyrics that have maintained Tori Amos’ position as one of the most engaging artists of the last two decades.
Fonte: The Afterglow e SameSame.com.au
Em breve, a tradução completa da entrevista.