so you can make me come that doesn't make you jesus

 

Tori Amos

 

I realize these are unsafe waters for an overall male person (well, physically, anyway) such as myself to tread, but in the interests of, um, finding new artists to cover, I've decided to review Ms. Amos. She is living proof that all you need to do is believe in yourself and you can be successful. Why? Because she's not a very good songwriter. Well, she has written a few corkers in her time, but overall, she is frustratingly inconsistent. Plus she feels the need to add irritating touches to her songs to make sure you realize that she's not a soft happy cute little girl.

review index: Little Earthquakes / Under the Pink / Boys for Pele / From the Choirgirl Hotel / To Venus and Back / Strange Little Girls / Scarlet's Walk

missing albums: none
missing sanity: me

apex: Little Earthquakes
nadir: Boys for Pele
overlooked: umm...heylookoverthereit'sadistractingthing!


...reader comments...

"J. Scott" (datura80@hotmail.com) writes:

I can honestly say that I find your reviews to be "not well thought out" at all. They don't explain anything that they should explain in a decent review.

That aside, I find your reviews of Tori Amos' CD's to be particularily insane. How is it that you can judge lyrics that you don't understand? You have to listen to these songs with an ear to what she means. Tori speaks in metaphor alot of the time, and if you tried for two seconds, you might figure out what it is she's trying to tell you. She doesn't lay it out on a plate, and make it so simplistic that a six year old with a tape player can figure it out (like alot of todays' artists). It goes alot deeper. Example...B-side from Scarlet's Walk "Peter Pan Complex" which sounds on the surface like it is about peter pan.....is actually about her husband not coming out of his funk from his mothers death....but you have to LISTEN to figure that out. I can understand how you "as an individual" do not like her music, and that is quite alright, as musical tastes differ alot. However, when it comes to reviewing you must look at it with an objective eye (something I don't believe you did). You start with finding every little thing that you can think of that is good about the subject, and then after that address the bad. You will find that this makes for a more even review. Look at some movie reviews by Roger Ebert....even movies he hates...he will mention the good stuff about them, and he ends up with an more balanced review. You can hate something, but if you are reviewing it for the general public's consumption, be even handed.

I know you are saying "Who the hell is this person?!". Well, I am a reviewer, and I found your reviews on my meanderings around the net. I thought that I might give you a little friendly criticism on them. To rant about how incredibly bad something is, is not only informative but fun.....but you have to be careful that you have completely analyzed the subject to death (for this is the job of the reviewer). You have to be sure you get what's going on. Some of the things you "didn't get" from her music is quite clear.

Anyways, please don't think this is meant to be a mean spirited email. It is quite the opposite, as I felt like from one reviewer to another, I would give you my thoughts.

Cole Responds:

I think you completely missed the point of this site.


Little Earthquakes - 1992

Rating: ***1/2
Best songs: Girl, Winter, Precious Things, China
Worst songs: Happy Phantom, Mother, Me and a Gun

 

Like all women, Tori is deceptive (joke). This is her first album and unarguably her best (because I say so). There are actual melodies on this one -- good ones, at that (see: "Crucify"! "Tear in Your Hand"! and others!), and for once the good songs outweigh the bad ones (just the overly-dramatic "Me and a Gun" and some irritating piano noodling on a few other tracks). "Precious Things" actually makes interesting use of some abrasive elements, unlike some examples later on (Boys for Pele?). Also, she doesn't overdo the singing-annoyingly-on-purpose thing, instead she sounds like a, um, normal person (her voice is reminiscent of Kate Bush, without that whole "Don't Give Up" thing). This album, therefore, is good (good).


Under the Pink - 1994

Rating: *1/2
Best songs: God, Past the Mission, Pretty Good Year
Worst songs: Icicle, Yes Anastasia, The Wrong Band, Bells for Her

 

Despite Little Earthquakes being an overall good album, Tora! Tora! Tora! felt the need to branch out. Y'know, instead of writing melodic, interesting piano songs, write some boring, go-nowhere piano songs. Oh, she can start off an album good enough ("Pretty Good Year" is fairly interesting in its quiet/loud transitions, "God" skips amiably between screechy dissonant guitar and pretty choral vocals, and "Past the Mission" is actually...pretty?), but geez, how many dull yawnfests does she have to splatter across this discoteca (I'm single, bilingual!)? "Bells for Her". "Baker Baker". "Icicle". "Yes, Anastasia" (for NINE MINUTES!). To misquote the Simpsons (and who doesn't? aside from Rich Bunnell, of course): The songs, they do nothing! Sigh. At least "Cornflake Girl" is a mildly-amusing chimey mandolin-driven tune, though it goes on too long.


Boys for Pele - 1996

Rating: 0
Best songs: Mr. Zebra -- all one minute of it
Worst songs: most of them

 

OH MY FRIGGING GOD WHAT THE HELL IS SHE DOING?!

Wait, wait, slow down. Breathe... Okay. Okay, let's start this over again.

ARGH THIS IS THE WORST ALBUM I'VE EVER HEARD WHY IS THIS SO HORRIBLE?!

*slap*

AAAHHHH AAAHHHH AAA--*SLAP!*

Thank you. Okay. I'm better now.

This album is so bad, I cannot even come up with an appropriate adjective. Words like "horrid" and "terrible" fail to do justice to the total vortex of suckitude that is this album. Apparently somewhere along the way Tori realized that writing nice melodies equalled total corporate sellout, so she bought a harpsichord and started pounding on it as hard as possible, creating an ugly noise over which she would sing in an even uglier fashion.

Wait -- allow me to get the good parts of this album out of the way. "Mr. Zebra" is a cute little song, though it's only about a minute long. Oh, and "Blood Roses" suggests a decent song before it takes a left turn into badville. There.

Now, back to the album. I have nothing against dissonance in music, I think it's an important aspect of creating something new and non-generic, but just repeating the same crap over and over and passing it off as "artistic" is just unacceptable. Yuck.


From the Choirgirl Hotel - 1998

Rating: **1/2
Best songs: Black Dove, Cruel, Rasperry Swirl
Worst songs: Spark, Pandora's Aquarium, Playboy Mommy, i i e e e

 

This time, Tori decided to embrace the whole techno craze of 1997 or so. More to the point, she started writing some decent songs again. After the 70 minutes of CRAP that was the previous album, this one sounds positively heavenly. Excepting that the album starts with possibly the worst opening line ever: "she's addicted to nicotine patches", and that it ends with some irritating bits of pretension, namely "Pandora's Aquarium" (see? Aquarium, not BOX! she's so witty!) and uhh.."Playboy Mommy". Never mind that, there are some good songs! Like "Cruel"! And the goofy amped-up techno fun of "Raspberry Swirl"! And some pianoey stuff that's pretty nice. I will give this album a decent grade, oh yes I will.

Postscript (10.25.02): I forgot to mention this, but "Black Dove" is one of the greatest songs ever.


To Venus and Back - 1999

Rating: **
Best songs: Concertina, Glory of the 80s, Juarez, Bliss
Worst songs: everything after those four

 

Well, once again, she starts off good (excepting yet another stupid opening line: "father, I killed my monkey"?) then descends into dullsville. She toned down the electronic stuff, so it's more like uh, trip-hop or something, I dunno this electronic crap, so I can't say for certain. Anyway, the first four songs are the best, most notably "Concertina", sweet chorus, man! But the rest is kinda boring, it's mostly more in the way of useless, uninteresting keyboard-and-drum-loop ballady stuff, and if I don't quit listening to this crap very soon I'm gonna go nuts. Women, bah, who needs 'em anyway, well aside from heterosexual males, anyway.

This review brought to you by the Run-On Sentence Preservation Society, it's not just a grammatical error, it's a state of mind.


Strange Little Girls - 2001

Rating: *1/2
Best songs: Real Men, '97 Bonnie and Clyde
Worst songs: Happiness is a Warm Gun, Heart of Gold, Enjoy the Silence, Time

 

This is better than Boys for Pele because it's just boring, as opposed to the insidious unpleasantry of aforementioned album. Half the songs are just given incredibly slow piano-based arrangements ("Enjoy the Silence", "I'm Not in Love", and "I Don't Like Mondays" are just three examples of this), and most of the rest are fucked up beyond all comprehension. "Happiness is a Warm Gun" gets dragged out to ten minutes, and includes a bunch of self-righteous politicizing, "Heart of Gold" is filled with ugly screechy guitar noise, and Tori shrieks the lyrics like they were never meant to be sung, and...

That leaves a few decent tracks. "'97 Bonnie and Clyde" is remarkable for its incredibly creepy atmosphere (orchestration + Tori whispering = ooh!), "Real Men" is the only song on here I'd recommend for its musical merits (though she changes a rather important word in there; um, Tori? don't.), "Reign in Blood" is kinda freaky too, and the more-or-less title track is fairly decent. Nevertheless, unless you're a really big fan of Ms. Amos (and if you are, I'm surprised you made it this far down the page), you don't want to hear this.


Scarlet's Walk - 2002

Rating: *1/2
Best songs: A Sorta Fairytale, Amber Waves, Pancake
Worst songs: *comatose stare*

 

Like a few hundred million other people, Tori Amos was affected by the events of Sept. 11, so she decided to go on a cross-country trip across America, during which she would write songs and get into wacky hijinks. Wait, that last part probably didn't happen. If only life was more like a romantic comedy starring Richard Gere.

So this is a result of all that pain and suffering and endless tedium and all that stuff, I guess. Actually, that's pretty much how I felt when I heard Boys for Pele. This album is not an annoying amalgamation of dissonant instrumentalism, techno-ey bleeps, and/or shrieking. It's just really, really boring. It's like she took the style of her first couple albums and reverse-engineered it on the premise of, "how bad can I do this?". The album stretches out over 18 tracks and 74 minutes, which is a really good way to start that concept off. Also, she pretty much plays every song the exact same way: sedate tempo, piano and/or electric piano, and an uninteresting vocal melody. Okay, let me allow for the few good songs on here: it starts out well enough with "Amber Waves", which at least has a nice chorus, and "A Sorta Fairytale" is actually kinda catchy (though I coulda sworn she was singing "a soda fairytale", which I wouldn't put past her). "Wednesday" has some interesting tempo shifts going for it, and that's about it. "Pancake" is the only thing past here that I can even remember. The rest just makes me feel...well...nothing. It's a whole lot of blah.

Dear Tori Amos, please quit making bad albums. Sincerely, Cole Reviews.


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