To Venus And Back

[a]Tori Amos[/a] does not do things the normal way....

[a]Tori Amos[/a] does not do things the normal way. For most people, the way to make fresh a concert, album, anything boringly mid-career, is to go unplugged. Instead, for her fifth album, she’s discovered the joys of electricity.

A two-CD set, one half is a live album and like all such self-indulgences it’s mainly unremarkable. It does, however, with the addition of a full band, act as a compass for her new direction. Which mainly means trip-hop.

Inevitably, this can result in moribund clanking, but Amos‘ lyrics – oblique, encrypted and arcane – are just about enough to make you forgive her for following this tired old path. And when lyrical content melds into jarring atmospherics – as on the psychotropic loop of ‘Dctura’, which uses shamanic ritual plants as a metaphor for sex and divinity, or the eerily spectral and chillingly detached ‘Juarez’, the tale of hundreds of unsolved rapes and murders in a Mexican border town – it can sound remarkably original.

Such scattered moments are not enough though. It’s fine when she’s dabbling – the Madonna-style, morally ambiguous hymn to hollow LA excess ‘Glory Of The 80’s’ – but striking out in a totally new direction is obviously too scary to contemplate for long, and the lure of the trusty old joanna proves too strong. Consequently she tinkles away on ‘Josephine’, retreading old ground in ever-decreasing circles, while ‘Lust’ is a surprisingly weedy canonisation of marriage.

As changes go, it hardly ranks alongside Bob Dylan aggravating die-hard folkies by embracing electricity. But by getting herself plugged in, Tori‘s managed to get more than a few wires crossed along the way.

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