Boys For Pele

Tori Amos

Atlantic Records, 1996

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


Tori Amos's fanbase made Little Earthquakes and Under The Pink breakout hits. After Under The Pink, it seemed that Tori Amos fans would buy anything. Most all of the Tori fans I knew had at least one bootleg of her music; be it a concert or b-sides. However, that fanbase actually showed some cracks and fissures after the release of Boys For Pele.

To hardcore Tori Amos fans, Boys For Pele was Tori Amos's The Wall; a gargantuan album, filled with big music and big themes. It was a long-ass album as well. Eighteen songs and clocking in at around 70 minutes, Boys For Pele was Tori Amos taking the ranks among the big boys of rock as she released her own "epic" double-album.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

To other fans, Boys For Pele was as close to a betrayal as an artist could release to his or her fans. Gone were the stark, personable lyrics of Earthquakes and Pink, replaced with hugely abstract lyrics and "what the fuck was that?" arrangements, such as "In The Springtime Of His Voodoo" and "Blood Roses."

While some of the songs were "out there," many still had vivid images to linger in your head from the first listen. You may not get what "Blood Roses" is about on the first or seventh listen, but when Amos sings in a trembling voice "chickens get a taste of your meat," you're stuck with that image for the rest of the night. "In the Springtime Of His Voodoo" is a much-needed pick me up during the last quarter of the album; after a few slow-paced songs, the listener gets to hear one of Amos's most erotic songs: "Got an angry snatch / girls you know what I mean / when swivelin that hip doesn't do the trick / me pureed sanitarily Mr. Sulu / warp speed."

"Professional Widow," "Caught A Lite Sneeze" and "Little Amsterdam" are the most straightforward songs on the album. But if you give Boys For Pele a few listens, you can appreciate the devastating effects of "Putting The Damage On" and "Muhammad My Friend." The only problem is that the album doesn't sink in until about the seventh or eighth listen; something most listeners, even hardcore fans, may not be willing to undertake.

I will side with the hardcore Tori Amos fans who like Boys For Pele. It's definitely an album that's far easier to admire than love. Still, it was great seeing an artist like Tori step up to the plate and try to record her big, epic, bloated album like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd have done before her (it's no surprise that Led Zeppelin remains a major influence for Amos). Still, she paid a price for Boys For Pele: she never reachieved the sales or the momentum of her first two albums. If Little Earthquakes was Tori Amos's breakthrough album and Under The Pink represented her abilities as a musician, Boys For Pele was the line in the sand that divided her dedicated rank of fans.

Rating: A-

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© 2005 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Atlantic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.