Boys For Pele

Tori Amos

Atlantic Records, 1996

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Tori Amos is not a happy woman these days.

When she first came onto the music scene (not including her short stint with Y Kant Tori Read) with Little Earthquakes, her music was powerful but subtle. Songs like "Winter," "Crucify" and her cover of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" showed how much power one could pump through an acoustic piano.

With her following release, Under The Pink, Amos seemed to throw away any radio-friendly guise she had while continuing to question the image of God (or, at least, her image). The record paled in comparison to my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Earthquakes, and seemed very overblown.

Now, with her third release, Boys For Pele, Amos has turned her subtlety into anger, and has thrown away yet another guise - melodies.

The first single, "Caught A Lite Sneeze," seems like it would represent a good start to the album, and the song is good. However, Amos seems like she wants to be the acoustic member of the "grrrl" music movement.

See Tori label someone in an unfriendly way: "Starfucker / just like my daddy" in "Professional Widow." (I won't even begin to question what this lyric was about.) See Tori tell us a little more about her sex life than I really wanted to know on "In The Springtime Of His Voodoo": "Got an angry snatch / Girls you know what I mean." What the hell happened to lyrics like: "When you gonna make up your mind / When you gonna love you as much as I do"?

Amos's music has taken a turn - and kids, it definitely ain't for the better.

But wait, there's more. While her piano playing is extraordinary (as it always is), Amos no longer seems like she wants to sing a melody line that blends with her own piano part. As if this weren't bad enough, the vocals that used to go from a whisper to a plead like a hot knife through butter now sounds like nails on a blackboard; at times I wasn't sure if I was listening to Amos or Diamanda Galas.

There are some redeeming moments that make Boys For Pele worth checking out. Besides "Sneeze," the other single "Talula" captures some of Amos's best work. Other songs that stand out from the muck include "Horses," "Not The Red Baron" and "Muhammed My Friend" (a song which, from a look at the lyric sheet, seems to suggest a, aah, different tale of the Christmas story. Check this one out yourself.)

Amos is still a very gifted musician, and many of her compositions have not gotten the attention they have rightfully deserved. However, Boys For Pele is an album that doesn't spotlight Amos the artist, rather Amos the experimentalist. It reminds me of a saying I think is often attributed to Yogi Berra: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Amos would be wise to heed that warning.

Rating: D

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© 1997 Christopher Thelen 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.