Music Reviews

Tori Amos forms the ‘American Doll Posse’

Twenty-three songs. Four alter-egos. One batty musician. But for all its multiple personalities, bizarre high-brow concepts, and sheer overkill, the new Tori Amos effort adds up to one of the singer-songwriter’s best.

Staying true to the concept album format she’s favoured recently — so far we’ve had cover songs performed by different female personae, a woman’s journey through America, and something about bees and hives — ‘American Doll Posse’ finds the wacky woman getting political through four characters each representing different traits of her character.

There’s the confrontational Pip (expiraTORIal), activist Isabel (hisTORIcal), idealistic Clyde (cliTORIdes) and sensual Santa (sanaTORIum), each with her own accent, wardrobe, hairstyle and blog. With Tori herself as the ringleader, divvying up the tunes amongst the women, she’s clearly catering to her rabid fans. Those die-hard followers who’ve kept her career afloat, are sure to lap up the multiple personality disorder bollocks — even if it’s a pretentious waste of time that will float right past your blissfully unaware average listener.

But that’s alright — Amos has dreamed up some of her best songs since the ménage-a-trois of her first three solo albums.

‘Bouncing Off Clouds’ is as exuberant as ‘Cornflake Girl’ — a fluffy pop confection that softens brief moments of insecurity and belligerence — while the honky tonk stomp of ‘Big Wheel’ has the singer taking the stage in a sleazy Texas bar, only getting up from her battered upright piano long enough to flirt with the drunk men in the audience. “I am a M-I-L-F, don’t you forget,” the 43-year-old declares with the brazen sexuality of her debut, ‘Little Earthquakes’.

Yet the pensive ‘Digital Ghost’, tenderly beautiful ‘Father’s Son’ and the light-and-dark symphony ‘Dragon’ prove that Amos has certainly matured in the ensuing 15 years, capable of projecting more emotional depth than before.

But the effect can be a little overbearing, with the American in Conrwall having, as always, overreached. There are simply too many songs, with filler like the political blurting of ‘Yo George’ and the atonal rant ‘Fat Slut’ only serving to obscure such gems as the threatening, bitter ‘Code Red’ (“Victory is an elusive whore/ She is as easily mine / As she is yours”) and the orchestral comment on celebrity ‘Girl Disappearing’.

So too the march from one musical style to the next — the 17th century harp and mandolin ditty ‘Devils and Gods’ gives way to the grungy grooves of the slutty ‘Body And Soul’ — only adds to the feeling that this could have been a truly great album if Amos had just booted out some members of her doll posse. Sometimes less really is more.

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