Monday, May 21, 2007

Tori Amos' American Doll Posse: Breaking Down Which Tracks are Worthwhile - and Which are Worthless

As you read here a week or so ago, Tori Amos has released her best album in years. True, that's not saying much, but we have to give credit where credit is due: If you are a lapsed Toriphile, American Doll Posse should get you back on track. I never expected to own another one of her albums, or post gushingly about her again, but here I am.

Still, it's 23 tracks long. By RIB's count, that's at least nine too many. So while we certainly recommend that you pick it up, we figured we'd provide this handy breakdown of what's worth keeping and what you're better off trashing -- and a few we haven't decided on yet (note that we've left out references to the album's various "characters" and which songs "they" sing, because, frankly, it's a ridiculous conceit that only contributes to the album's unwieldiness):

1. Yo George. This is a not-very-subtle dig at George W. Bush which asks the pertinent, but heavy-handed, questions: "Where have we gone wrong, America?" and "Is this just the madness of King George?". I'm keeping it for now, because it's pretty, but it might not last. Better as a decent b-side than an uninspiring album opener. STATUS PENDING.

2. Big Wheel. Great, great song. Upbeat, a bit country but not too much, and about 2/3 of the way in, Tori declares, "I'm an M-I-L-F, don't you forget." KEEP.

3. Bouncing Off Clouds. Like a Kate Bush song Kate Bush never recorded, in a Running Up That Hill vein. Fantastic. KEEP.

4. Teenage Hustling. This has had us singing "I'm at your door, I'm at your door, I'm at your do-o-or" repeatedly in our shower, which opens us up for a lot of snarky criticisms, but we're very confortable with both our musical taste and our sexuality. KEEP.

5. Digital Ghost. This is the first track where the annoying side of Tori starts to come out. It seems to be packed with lame technology double entendres, including "I am not immune to your net". But I don't hate it enough to trash it yet. STATUS PENDING.

6. You Can Bring Your Dog. In which Tori compares herself and others to pets, with a boring roadhouse rock band backbeat. DELETE.

7. Mr. Bad Man. Starts off like it's going to be a Herman's Hermits greatest hit. But "Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter" is a lyrical masterpiece compared to lines like "The bad man made her cry". DELETE.

8. Fat Slut. All I can say is thank God it's only 41 seconds long. DELETE.

9. Girl Disappearing. Okay, we're back on track here. The lyrics are pretty blah, but the piano and the music are worth the ride. KEEP.

10. Secret Spell. Reminds me of solo Stevie Nicks. But better. Will I wake up in a cold sweat one night, needing to hear Secret Spell and nothing else? No. But I like it. KEEP.

11. Devils and Gods. Another short one, clocking in at 53 seconds. Not long enough to be much of anything, but at least it doesn't suck like Fat Slut. Would have been better as a little hidden bit at the end of another track. KEEP.

12. Body and Soul. The song starts and I think to myself, "I don't really like most of the Y Can't Tori Read throwback stuff." Then the chorus kicks in and I'm singing along. Could see this as a single, although there are better choices. KEEP.

13. Father's Son. Could be a track from Boys For Pele. And since that is by far her best album, IMO, that is saying a lot. KEEP.

14. Programmable Soda. This song is total nonsense, but so was Mister Zebra. It's not as good, but, like Zebra, this is fun. And at 1:25, it doesn't have quite enough time to wear out its welcome. KEEP.

15. Code Red. I'm sorry Tori, but THIS IS THE FIFTEENTH TRACK. I am already not in the mood for you anymore. I don't even care if this is a good song or not at this point. But since I've undertaken the task of listening to the whole thing, I will have to be fair to Code Red. Which is really not that great of a song. DELETE.

16. Roosterspur Bridge. Zzzzzzz. DELETE.

17. Beauty of Speed. Okay, you've won me back with the opening drum/piano stuff...yes...yes, the spirit of Kate Bush rejoins us on track 17. Good stuff. KEEP.

18. Almost Rosey. Poor lyrics, lackluster performance. More dull than anything else. DELETE

19. Velvet Revolution. As a former resident of Prague, I was hoping for something else. I guess "something more" would be appropriate too. DELETE.

20. Dark Side of the Sun. Tori's version of Blowin' in the Wind-meets-Big Yellow Taxi, anyone? Not good. DELETE.

21. Posse Bonus. As this is track No. 21, don't you think we've had enough Posse bonuses? I could have stomached this better earlier in this sitting. On second though, nah. DELETE.

22. Smokey Joe. Can't quite make heads or tails of this song yet, which appears to be about revenge. But it seems to work and I will return to it. KEEP.

23. Dragon. Nice, dark keyboard and piano. The lovely chorus is "stay awhile, stay awhile, stay a-whi-le" - but how much better would that sound if this was track 11? KEEP.

CONCLUSION: Tori Amos needs an editor. American Doll Posse would have been perfect at about 11 or 12 tracks. As is, there's a whole lot of crap to float through to get to the chewy cookie center. Worth it though - especially now that we've got it all sorted out.

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