Strange Little Girls, Tori Amos Atlantic

Paul Wong
Courtesy of Knopf

Tori Amos is a cult. And that is not an exaggeration.

She quite possibly has one of the most die-hard fan bases in music today, which seems somewhat bizarre among the ranks of empty-headed bubblegum and rap metal that plague modern popular music. She has always come off as an intelligent artist who writes from the heart.

However, it is not Amos” writing that appears on her new disc, Strange Little Girls. It is actually a diverse mix of covers fused into a concept album. By doing everything from a Depeche Mode song to a disturbing spoken word version of Eminem”s “”97 Bonnie & Clyde,” Amos tries to portray the female perspective or even a female character portrayed in the song.

It”s certainly an interesting artistic idea, even if it isn”t completely original. The packaging consists of photos of Amos as each of the characters from the song. Combining this with the covers aspect makes for a unique offering. However, one can”t help but feel that the intention of Strange Little Girls is some sort of twisted cross between Natalie Merchant”s Ophelia and Shawn Colvin”s Cover Girl.

There is no doubt that the songs Amos chooses are, for the most part, exceptional. A standout is undoubtedly “Real Men” by Joe Jackson in which Amos” haunting voice echoes the lyrics, “But now and then we wonder who the real men are.”

Another track of interest is The Beatles” “Happiness Is A Warm Gun,” which Amos sings from the perspective of a call girl whom Mark Chapman hired and confided in the night before he assassinated John Lennon. Also, Amos” rendition of Tom Waits” smoky bar ballad “Time,” is as touching and somber as any Waits original could be.

Musically, the album is quite good. Amos” voice remains unique and the arrangements are reminiscent of 1998″s From the Choirgirl Hotel and 2000″s To Venus and Back. To an uneducated listen, it sounds like the songs could stylistically be her own. And, as always, the piano work remains exceptional.

The thing about Tori Amos is, she could put out a blank disc with nothing but track numbers and still be loved and revered as a great artist. Strange Little Girls is not her best work, as there is little that compares to her own song writing, when she hits her target.

All things considered though, this album is very interesting and thoughtful. Devoted fans are sure to love it and those less acquainted with her work will certainly be able to find something appealing on Strange Little Girls.

Grade: B+

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