Release Date: May 19, 2009
Record label: Universal Republic
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative, Singer-Songwriter
Oh god, 70-plus minutes again. Haven’t we been through this enough already? Hasn’t Tori Amos, after three consecutive albums that crossed the same threshold, gotten this out of her system yet? Isn’t she about due for the pared-down back-to-basics album that every artist must create after spending too long on bloated, overlong vanity projects? Granted, there has been merit to every single one of those other 75-minute beasts of albums—Scarlet’s Walk was a frequently brilliant, beautiful story, and The Beekeeper was one of those questionable albums that slowly turns into a masterpiece the more you listen to it, read about it, and learn about everything that makes it what it is. Amos’ willingness to talk in such detail about the latter album was part of what made it such an indispensable album, because a nigh-impenetrable wall of treacle turns into an intensely personal document of inner turmoil.
Blame Facebook. Blame YouTube. Or blame the culture of bite-sized entertainment that is slowly eroding our ability to concentrate, but on the 14th track of Tori Amos’ new album Abnormally Attracted to Sin, your mind begins to wander. Then, by the time you hit the 73rd minute of this eighteen-track epic, you realise with panic that you've got to start the second half again, cause you missed it all.
After the high conceptualism that lorded over 2005's The Beekeeper and 2007's American Doll Posse, singer and songwriter Tori Amos has decided to return to the relatively simple songs-as-songs approach on Abnormally Attracted to Sin. Those recordings, fine though they may have been, stretched the artist's reputation and the patience of her fans to the breaking point; based on her record sales, she whittled them down to simply the Tori cult (not a derogatory term, since many of her fans are proud to refer to themselves that way). The scope of this set in comparison with the previous two offerings seems more like a retrenchment than anything else.
Review Summary: Tori on autopilot. Back in 2007, when I was about to review Tori's American Doll Posse, my best friend pointed me in the direction of a review written by one of his best friends. This review - which appeared on the now-defunct Stylus - asserts that 'the only way we’re going to get a good album from her in this day and age is if someone has the decency to abduct and kill her daughter'.
What would Jesus do? As Tori Amos sees it, probably something dirty. Exploring themes of religious and carnal power on Abnormally Attracted to Sin, she’s heavy-breathing about blood and wine and saints and getting down on her knees (for nonsaintly reasons), likely setting the librarians in some university’s human-sexuality archives all atwitter. Sometimes her brains get a little too big for her Bible: On ”Mary Jane,” she fails to find a rhyme for ”tetrahydrocannabinol pure isomer dronabinol.” But when she’s banging on her piano over layers of lush electronics, she’s got the rapture part down.