Artistic album of covers won't get much airplay
By MIKE SCHMUHL
Scene Music Critic
Tori Amos has always been known for her revolutionary approach to music. Her fans have grown to love the way her soothing voice flutters above the intricate melody of her piano. Yet, for her latest effort, Strange Little Girls, Amos strays from her traditional musical arrangements, instead taking on the difficult task of covering 12 extraordinarily diverse songs. Even more surprising than that, what truly makes Strange Little Girls a remarkablely unique album for Amos, is that almost each song on the album has one thing in common: a man wrote it about a woman.
Changing gender roles and sampling music from the Beatles to Eminem, Amos strives for artistic achievement on Strange Little Girls, rather than radio airplay. a
The album starts with a hypnotic version of the Velvet Underground's "New Age." With a pulsing beat, shrieking guitar chorus riff, and Amos' breathy vocals, the song's progression is impressive. Altering the original lyrics, Amos sings repeatedly, "Over the bridge we go," directly addressing the social equality of men and women over the years.
The following song, "97 Bonnie and Clyde" turns the song — originally written by Eminem — into a disturbing vocalization with an eerie string instrument and piano.
Changing the tone of the album entirely, Amos presents her rendition of the Strangler's "Strange Little Girl." A springy conga beat and confident vocals fall into an explosive chorus. Scratchy guitar and a simple piano support the catchy tune.
Once again transforming the album's flow, Amos reduces the music to her voice and a piano for Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence." The calmness of her version clashes with the idea that the subject is much more serious. Phrases like "Words like violence/ Break the silence/ Come crashing in/ Into my little world." Amos' carefree presentation is fascinating in comparison to the original disparity of the song.
In similar fashion, Amos completely dismembers and reconstructs a number of other classic songs.
The popish trance of "I'm Not In Love" is oddly transformed into a dark and industrial beat. "Rattlesnakes" by Lloyd Cole keeps its popish country feel and acoustic chorus, but is slowed down to a much more personal level. The folksy classic "Heart of Gold" by Neil Young is magnified into a loud and shrill mixture of soaring guitar and screeching vocals.
"I Don't Like Mondays," originally by the Boomtown Rats, is stripped from its frightening and alarming original meaning to another straightforward soliloquy from Amos.
With the Slayer song so delicately named "Raining Blood," Amos composes a song of gurgling horror and depression. Her voice comes across gloomy and deep, but returns to clear high-points throughout the song. With heaving exhales and a shadowy piano, her adaptation of the song is somehow even more frightening than the original.
The short jingle "Happiness Is a Warm Gun," by the Beatles is extended into a lengthy 10 minute jam with sound bytes of Lennon's death and the political issue of gun control. For a while, the beat and guitar stay constant, but with the chorus, Amos breaks the music — and her vocals — with tricky delays and stops.
The album finally comes to an end with the Joe Jackson song "Real Men." Amos returns to her roots with her usual vocals and graceful piano. Confronting homosexuality and the stereotypes of society with a touch of sarcasm, Amos handles the subject well and leaves her audience to find "Who the real men are."
Strange Little Girls will probably not see much airplay, and only a few songs stand out in the scope of the whole album. A listener certainly wouldn't listen to the album for fun or at a party. As an artistic attempt, however, the album succeeds on many fronts. Through analyzing the songs of various men, Amos is able to create a solid album. Once again, Tori Amos has forged new ground on the music scene.
All Scene Stories for Tuesday, October 30, 2001