From The Choirgirl Hotel

Tori Amos

Atlantic Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


Tori Amos once said that pain was something that our generation cherished so much that we would hunt down and kill anyone who tried to take that pain away from us. After all, pain is Tori Amos's muse.

The horror and the suffering she suffered after being raped came out on Little Earthquakes. That groundbreaking album and Under The Pink rang with Amos's virtuosic piano skills as well as her stark lyrics. Then...something happened - she broke up with her longtime boyfriend. The result was Boys For Pele, an ambitious album as well as a huge departure from those two albums. As she added more musical ornamentation (harpsichord) her lyrics became more abstract.

Bad news for those who bitched about the results of Amos's last venture. The accomplishments she made on Boys For Pele are taken to a new level for her new album, from the choirgirl hotelmy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 . It's more dance-oriented, it's more accessible than either Boys For Pele or Under The Pink and it's her most rockin' album to date.

This time, the pain that Amos is reeling from stems from her miscarriage that she suffered after the tour for Boys For Pele was completed. She addresses this directly in the powerful opener, "Spark". "She's convinced she could hold back a glacier/but she couldn't keep baby alive," Amos sings in a voice that can still feel like someone has injected ice water in your spine.

The rest of the album is far more difficult in terms of figuring out the meanings of the lyrics. Metaphorically, Amos is one of the most interesting artists out there today. And choirgirl hotel is packed with metaphors. "Ice cream assassains", "lover brother bogenvilla" and Amos comparing herself to "an underwater thing" are some of the noggin' scratchers on this release.

Luckily, from the choirgirl hotel is musically intriguing enough to keep you hooked. Mellotone flutes, electric and acoustic guitar and lavish string production are all over the album. Aside from the Robert Plant-worshipping yells that Amos is so great at, she also takes some lessons from PJ Harvey ("Cruel") and dances with electronica ("hotel" and the throbbing "She's Your Cocaine"). All of this may seem like blasphemy to old school Amos fans. And they have a right to be somewhat worried; her piano playing comes dangerously close to being drowned out by the other musical forces on choirgirl hotel.

But her voice is still the reason to buy her albums. And she's exquisite, especially on the lovely "Liquid Diamonds". In from the choirgirl hotel, Amos speeds into new territory. If a glimpse of Little Earthquakes could be seen in Boys For Pele, it's all but gone in this latest effort. Not to dispute the greatness of that album. But from the choirgirl hotel is a listen unlike anything else you're likely to hear this year. And that's saying a lot given the new releases this year by Garbage, Tricky, Hole, Liz Phair and PJ Harvey.

Is from the choirgirl hotel bloated? Sometimes yes. Is it self-indulgent? Oh, hell yeah. But unlike other bloated epics, there's plenty of rewards awating you with each listen to choirgirl hotel. It all depends on whether or not the listener is willing to stay a few nights in Tori's hotel.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A-


© 1998 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.