I'm just going to go ahead and say it.
Last week I was up in Chicago recording Raccoo-oo-oon at Nathan Cook's new studio (the studio doesn't have a name yet, and just when he thought he had decided upon the name "Strange Wool" he Googled it and promptly decided against it). On the way to and from Chicago, I had a pile of CD's that I had found in a box that I had left in James Mann's garage for a year (approximately one year longer than I told him the boxes would be there). I was glad to see some of them, but I was not glad to see most of them. You see, I used to do CD reviews for this online zine called Action Attack Helicopter, and they gave me a lot of CD's and I was kind of a mean reviewer. I liked being the mean reviewer, and it wasn't like I tried to be mean on purpose, it was just that we for the most part got a lot of crappy CD's to review. Sometimes they were good, (that Figurine CD for example) but for the most part it was either really bad or just unexceptional to the point of me just kind of wondering why people would put so much effort into making that kind of music. Point being, I have piles of CD's that I should probably just get rid of because I never listen to them.
All of this negativity is going to really surprise you when you read what I am about to write. So, in this pile of CD's there were a few that I was really glad to see, they were CD's that I had purchased at one point or another, and I got giddy when I saw that they still existed. The wheat among the chaff? Mostly stand up comedy CDs, by Woody Allen (classic!), Bill Cosby (classy!), and David Cross (obvious). There were some music CDs in there as well though, and what I found was pretty sweet. You see, there was a period in my life when I bought every Tori Amos album that came out. This was not a very long period, but it was long enough to establish a pretty serious guilty pleasure. What I had in my hands as I embarked for Chicago were Tori's second and third albums, Under the Pink and Boys for Pele. What a ride it was.
Let me explain.
Back when I was high school, I saw her video Silent All These Years on MTV. The chorus featured the 6th to flat7th chord progression, so I was kind of impressed right there. This this cool guy in my study hall, Matt McConnell sometimes wore on of her shirts, so I thought there might be something there. My aunt had her CD Little Earthquakes, so I borrowed it, and thought it was pretty good. My impression (and this law has proven to true throughout the ages) was that one third of her songs are incredibly good, and then the rest of the stuff is either kind of weird, trying to be a radio hit ("Cornflake Girl" anyone?), or just annoying. But in baseball as well as music, .333 is a pretty good batting average, when you consider what you get.
Other people who are not fans of her music have said this, and I would have to agree, but the number one thing that keeps people from liking her music is not her music, but her legion of annoying fans. Generally, I would tend to agree, there's a certain j'ne se quois about the die-hard Tori fan that rubs me the wrong way, but there are plenty of other artists with horrible fans who I am somehow willing to look past. Wilco, for example. Or The Locust.
So as I was driving, I put in these two magical CD's (you do know that she claims that her songs come to her in the form of fairies, right?). What happened next is that I would listen to the first few seconds of each song, and I could pretty much instantly remember if I liked the song or not. When it was one that I remembered liking, it was like a stampede of wild memory horses. Pretty cool.
So, here it is, my play-by-play list of songs from Under the Pink and Boys for Pele that I think are great.
Under the Pink:
Pretty Good Year <-- Good, emo.
Baker Baker <-- I really "feel" this one.
Cloud On My Tongue <-- "Leave me with your Borneo" What? Exactly!
Space Dog <-- Weird, interesting.
Yes, Anastasia <-- Epic! It should actually count as two songs.
That's 5 out of 12. Slightly better than one third, actually (although Baker Baker almost didn't make the cut [too many bad rhymes]).
What we see here is Tori Amos setting the stage for coming out as being totally crazy. There are traces of it in Little Earthquakes, a few hints here and there in Under the Pink. What comes next with Boys for Pele is a tour-de-force of a "I can do whatever I want because my legions of fans will eat it up and because my songs come to me in the form of faeries" kind of album. The picture of Tori breast feeding the piglet on the inside of the CD should be as good a hint as any. And again, one third of the time, it really works:
Father Lucifer <-- Brilliant! Wow! Scarier than Marilyn Manson could ever try to be.
Marianne <-- Very pretty! "Tuna robber, little blubber in my igloo yeah" What? Exactly!
Hey Jupiter <--Actually, now I'm not so sure. Oh well. Too late.
Way Down <-- Sure it's only like a minute long, but it is very good minute.
Agent Orange <--Same as above!
Putting the Damage On <-- I am a sucker for some good horn arrangements.
That's 5 out of 18. Kind of close to 33%. I don't know if it's nostalgia or what, but I just could not stop listening to the aforementioned songs in the car. There you have it. Rediscovering these albums has kind of left me with a dilemma: Should I follow up on her catalog after this point? If it's bad, I don't want to ruin what I consider to be a good impression. Sort of like how I wish that I had never listened to Metallica after their fourth album. I wish someone had took me aside and said "This is where it ends for you. Cherish what you have, and do not let that ass-clown Bob Rock destroy your image of the perfect heavy metal band." That, of course, did not happen, but I would like it if there is somebody out there who can point me in the right direction to (based on my assessment of albums 2 and 3) tell me if it would be a good idea for me to listen to her stuff after this. I just don't want to get hurt again, the way I did when I heard the Metallica black album. Somebody please set me straight.
The Top 1/3rd. Listen for yourself. Then feel free to leave a comment on how incredibly wrong I am.
More musical confessions to come. This is fun.
Monday, October 01, 2007
I'm just going to go ahead and say it.
Posted by M. H. D. at 4:09 PM