Review Summary: A continuation of Little Earthquakes in many ways, but with its own varied collection of entertaining flavors.
After the hugely buzzing success of Little Earthquakes Tori Amos was well on her way to become a name dropped during casual conversation. This was not merely accomplished through the intriguingly personal confessions on her album, but also in part to her red head eccentric, kooky personality and tendency to drift toward mythological ambiguity in interviews. Not to mention the infamous covers of the likes of Nirvana - and not just because you could actually make out the lyrics of "Smells Like Teen Spirit". Her live presence was a distinct energy to be fascinated (and perhaps even partly aroused) by. Despite the vulnerability of her made bare through her work after the mere solo debut; as an artist Amos had cemented a position as being a force to be reckoned with in the industry and to most observers she was more than just a soft pretty girl showing off some piano playing skills.
Of course, it didn't come as a bombshell that she then would capitalise on her success in some way and make the next record a familiar being. And yes, it can be clearly heard that Under The Pink is structured and performed by the very same person as on Little Earthquakes. Opening track "Pretty Good Year" is a smooth transition between the two. It moves elegantly moves through and, after a while in the calm, surprises the listener with short, but intense drama right before the last chorus. Later on the record Tori even finds herself in a character masturbating in a room, above a group of people singing church prayers ("Icicle").
Yet the single "God" follows moments after and puts a new vibe into the mix. Twitchy and harsh, jagged guitar brings Tori into the mood of some humorous pondering about the Lord himself and the mysterious, downright questionable ways he works. It's as intimate and as playful as previous efforts such as "Happy Phantom" or "Leather", but the sonic canvas is much more utilised. While there was always a sense of empty room on these tracks a lot of songs on Under The Pink are flowing more intricately towad the edges and with a clearer production. Like the vengeful "The Waitress" - a song pulsating with slick sampling. Tori bitterly thinks ill of a fellow employee who all the guys seem to have figured out once they're served their tasty club sandwich. Yet she knows the true nature of this woman: a bitch she wouldn't mind gutting with a knife. This kind of attitude is far more prevalent on this album and expands to a positive effect on Tori's personality. It's definitely good timing, for sure, as she would've become far less interesting in her career without these elements making her seem more multi-faceted.
And one lyrical theme in "The Waitress" stands as central to this release: The relationship between women. Besides other endeavours like achingly beautiful ballads ("Baker, baker") Tori moves outward from her own personal struggles to frustration over the disturbingly venomous things women often choose to do to each other, regardless of their close bond.
"Cornflake Girl" is Tori Amos' best-selling single to date, nearly topping the top 10-lists. Musically it's not too hard to figure why: the guitar melody and Tori's accurate, but adventurous piano playing radiates a sing-a-long feeling right from the first seconds and marches on with same energy and hook for the rest of the song. It's a standout track, for sure, as you'll probably be humming it after the finished album length. Lyrically, it's a whole lot different deal: It's not merely making metaphors to breakfast cereal, but references such works as "Possessing the Secret of Joy". Vaginal mutilation and butchering of women lie creeping underneath this single, revealing that the overarching theme on the record makes its way into unexpected corners.
A fascinating thing to gradually discover, but it's not like the search for these layers aren't encouraged in any way. Under the Pink finds Tori very much hiding clues and pushing in plenty of abstract imagery - a good bit of fun for the more actively involved listener. Her critics of her next LP, Boys For Pele, would make this much more used technique the center of discussion and it is true that it doesn't always help a track. "The Wrong Band" is easily the most inessential piece present, which could instead have been replaced by the slow-burning and moody b-side "Honey". "Space Dog" is also completely uninteresting in how it is musically monotonous, thus leaving plenty to be expected from the flexibility of the lyrics. Unfortunately, as the song title suggests, they're among the most obscure examples on this album, leaving the listener to be more perplexed than intrigued.
The grand finale is incessant on proving otherwise, though. "Yes, Anastasia" is a nine and a half minute epic that moves as elegantly and effeminately as only Tori knows when bloodlines and timelines in Russian history are being rushed through. The mystifying lyrics keep re-appearing in constant tempo, standing true to Tori's enthusiasm for referential mythology. It's nothing but a triumphant note to end the album on.
That is also what makes Under The Pink its own being. In many ways it is Little Earthquakes Part Deux and in more than one way it can be argued that this is a transitional effort. This explains why it might go unnoticed by most fans, in the scope of the larger discography, despite some hugely popular singles and even a guest appearance by Trent Reznor. But if you're one of the people who didn't lean toward Tori Amos' debut too much because of the lack of musical diversity and, well, fun; then this one's a satisfying treat to immediately follow up with.
Losing My Religion