Tori Amos
American Doll Posse



June 28th, 2007 | 11 replies

Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Tori's back on form - sort of.

Let me start this review with a brief Tori Amos history lesson, just so you're up to speed on where we were when she released American Doll Posse. Ignoring her early career with the hair-metal footnote Y Kant Tori Read, her first foray into the public's view came with the bruised, tender masterpiece Little Earthquakes, and a piano-led cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" that, for some (i.e. me), surpassed the original. Her early songs dealt with feminine identity, religion, faith, and sex, with the ever-present shadow of her traumatic rape experience permeating everything. She followed that with Under The Pink, which was a small step into new sounds (guitars!) that nevertheless stuck with the formula she'd established. Experimentation set in with the divisive Boys For Pele, as did a tendency towards very annoying dance remixes of her singles. From there, a miscarriage resulted in Tori again pouring her emotional confusion into an album, this time From The Choirgirl Hotel. And from there....well. Strange Little Girls was much better in concept than execution, so too Scarlet's Walk, and The Beekeeper was simply steeped in mediocrity from start to finish. Tori's last few albums have been overlong, overblown, and for the most part, quite boring.

She still commands a furiously devoted fanbase, albiet one that decreases with each further disappointment. And it's worth noting that whenever somebody takes the time to point out that she's not really done much of real worth since From The Choirgirl Hotel, they're instantly accused of not giving anything she does a real chance anymore because it doesn't sound like Little Earthquakes. People like me are frequently told to get over themselves and accept Tori for what she's become. Thing is, acceptance is not the problem - the problem is that much of the music isn't any good. Why would I want her to keep making albums like Little Earthquakes or From The Choirgirl Hotel, anyway? They were albums that came from profoundly depressing experiences. What kind of person would I be if I wished further pain on her when I know she can make great music without tapping into the darkest recesses of her psyche? Look, I'm perfectly capable of acknowledging that "Sweet The Sting", a sultry soul song that sounded like nothing Tori did in her early days, is a flat-out awesome song. But then you had "The Power of Orange Knickers", which was just plain bad, and easily the worst thing Damien Rice has ever put his name to (and among the worst things bearing Tori's name, too). Yeah, her cover of Eminem's "Bonnie & Clyde '97" was utterly inspired, but her covers of "Real Men", "I Don't Like Mondays", and "Raining Blood" were all barely worth listening to twice. I'd love to be able to say Tori Amos is still making good music, but the fact is that she's not. She's churning out albums that feel like endurance tests, albums that pound out song after interchangable song without any real flair, wit, or melodic strength to pull them out from the mire. Yeah, she'll manage maybe 3 great songs an album, but 3 out of 22 is not a good hit rate by anybody's standards.

So why do I even bother listening to her albums any more? Because I have faith, I guess. Tori's still clearly a very talented woman, and when she's at and the mistakes that she's making are so obvious that it's surely not gonna be long before she sorts them out. I mean, for one thing, she could do with lightening up a little, because when she bothers to slip a joke or two in, she's very funny, and that can be the difference between a song being average and good, or good and great. But what's this?

'I am a M-I-L-F, don't you forget!'


"Big Wheel" is brilliant. Let's not beat about the bush here - it's a classic Tori Amos song that doesn't revert to the 'classic' Tori Amos sound, and it's exactly what I, for one, want to hear from her at this point. It's ballsy, bouncy, catchy, and funny. "Bouncing Off Clouds" is basically a joke in itself (it's a cheeky nod to those who insist on comparing her to Kate Bush, by directly referencing her hit "Cloudbusting"), but it's also fantastic. The lyrical twists in both are typical Tori Amos territory, with the former taking a swipe at martyrs that seems inspired by her close friend Maynard James Keenan (in particular "Eulogy"), and the latter's pay-off line of 'that won't bring her back' invites the listener to assume she's revisiting the pain she explored on previous albums. "Teenage Hustling"'s lurching guitars bouy a great melody, and "Digital Ghost" is a lush, pretty ballad that sucks you into its world more than anything she's done since "Bonnie & Clyde '97". Add to this the album's opener, the short, sharp "Yo Bush", and it's a 5-track stint that just floors you. All of a sudden, it's like the last 6 years never happened. Tori Amos is brilliant again!

I'm not entirely sure how to explain what's clicked here, but it's basically undeniable that this is 50 times the record that The Beekeeper was, for a multitude of reasons. It's more affecting in the quiter moments, more powerful in the heavier ones, catchier, much more interesting, and it presents a vision of Tori Amos as an almost playful figure, one more in line with the image she's been giving off in recent television appearances and interviews. Let's face it - "You Can Bring Your Dog"'s country-rock swing is about as profound as Jack Off Jill's "My Cat", but who cares? It's a good song. I'm not coming into this record explicitly looking for another "Winter", and if Tori's suddenly realised that she can sing a line like 'You can bring your dog/I've got three' and make it sound good, or get away with a musical idea like the circus bounce to "Mr. Bad Man" without sounding desperate or coy, all power to the woman. There's even room here for a charming slice of psuedo-Classical music titled "Programmable Soda" - it's something you couldn't imagine she'd have tried in the middle of the much-too-serious The Beekeeper, and the fact that it works here is telling.

Let's not get too carried away - it's only the best Tori Amos album since From The Choirgirl Hotel. She's still making silly mistakes, like stuffing 23 tracks on album that takes 78 minutes to wind to its conclusion. God, what's so wrong with only putting 13 songs on an album? This is the third Tori Amos studio album in a row to clock in at well over 70 minutes (another move inspired by Maynard Keenan, perhaps?), and none of them need to be any longer than 50, at most. And, inevitably, a sizeable chunk of these 23 songs don't work. "Fat Slut" feels like an offcut (and a bad one at that), and songs like "Girl Disappearing" and "Father's Son" do little to invite any interest in them. The otherwise good "Code Red" goes on for too long, as does "Almost Rosey" - I'd forgive that if this were a shorter album, but on here it really feels like they're longer than they are. A song like "Posse Bonus", which is quite good, just gets buried by the fact that it's so hard to stay interested for nigh-on an hour and a half. But the good points here are like beacons. It feels, now, like Tori Amos has finally moved into a latter-day phase of her career that will work for her. If this is the Tori that's going to be writing her records from now on, then we should be celebrating.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
June 28th 2007


Nice review, alright album.

June 28th 2007


Great review, I haven't heard this yet. I'll probably pick it up eventually. I think her cover of I Don't Like Mondays is brilliant, though.

June 28th 2007


Great review. I agree she's been lagging as an artist badly, but if this really is the best the she's done since Choirgirl Hotel, I'm going to have to pick this up.
Oh, and I loved her cover of Raining Blood.This Message Edited On 06.28.07

July 24th 2007


Album Rating: 3.0

i actually liked Scarlett's Walk. it was different than her older stuff but i thought the songs were well-written and catchy. i agree, she needs to cut down on the # of songs included on each album. you have to hand it to her though: the idea that the "story" of American Doll Posse is told from 5 different POVs is kind of interesting.This Message Edited On 07.24.07

August 6th 2007


Album Rating: 4.0

My second favourite album this year so far. I just think it's slightly too long. She could have left off "Almost Rosey", "Yo George", "Body And Soul", "Secret Spell" and "Father's Son". Not because they're bad, but they kind of extend the album in a rather cumbrous way. The rest is brilliant! Especially "Beauty Of Speed", "Bouncing Off Clouds", "Girl Disappearing" and "Digital Ghost" are catching my attention. Agree with the reviewer on the fact that it's her best albzm since FROM THE CHOIRGIRL HOTEL.

August 28th 2007


Album Rating: 4.5

I love Tori Amos and this is up there with Chiorgirl (which is my favourite of hers.)

BTW, where is Choirgirl Hotel on this site?

March 3rd 2008


Album Rating: 3.0

I'm considering just getting this and running with it to see where it leads me. There's still songs from Little Earthquakes I am absolutely hooked on, and I really want to delve into her more. She's got a fantastic voice, I really love how the piano supports her and her lyrics, her lines are catchy and quirky without being ridiculously annoying or grating after a while.

April 21st 2008


Album Rating: 4.0

i love the creativity of this album, its so interesting, she has created a novelt hrough her album, really amazing.

April 21st 2008


Album Rating: 4.0

its really kate bush like, yes bouncing off clouds was amazing also devils and gods, body and soul big wheel and secret spell

December 7th 2008


Album Rating: 3.0


(brilliant line)This Message Edited On 12.07.08

December 16th 2008


Album Rating: 3.5

You are right in saying this is her best work since Choirgirl, but I will disagree that there was nothing coming from Tori that warranted a second listen since Strange Little Girls or Choirgirl. I really felt Scarlet's Walk was a superb album, a bit long, but that seems to be her trend here lately huh?

The Beekeeper was an utter disappointment, with a few songs (Ribbons Undone) that I could not stomach, let alone listen through.

Either way, regardless of how conceptual or "out there" Tori can be sometimes, this record brings her back to form, enough for the ones who miss the 'old Tori', to take notice.

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