My love affair with Tori Amos dates back to Under The Pink where as a child of metal I was introduced to her work through Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails singing backing vocals on Past The Mission. I was completely taken by her absolutely nutty lyrics on most of the songs and introduced a couple of my best friends to her just from showing them the words. As my musical tastes broadened and Amos slipped into that electro-dance sound, which saw a godawful remix of Professional Widow top the charts, coupled with a less than impressive Tales From The Choirgirl Hotel I began to drift away from her work. Scarlet’s Walk, The Beekeeper all listened to once and then forgotten. Checking a recent discography Native Invader is Amos’ fifteenth studio album which means I have missed six albums since then. I did listen to Unrepentant Geraldines before reviewing this new album and found it a slight return to form so was hoping for more of the same.
The album opens with Reindeer King, which is the longest track here with a seven minute runtime. In many ways this could have come off her earlier nineties records and although rather lovely it doesn’t work as an opening track and sounds like it should be the album closer. It’s all very slow and laid back with some lovely production touches here and there. The wah guitar on Broken Arrow is wonderful reminding me of Alice in Chains or eighties pop although the verse that follows feels emptier without it. It’s a minute or so too long. Elsewhere Wings, Bang, and Bats are completely forgettable.
The single Cloud Riders sounds exactly like you’d expect it too. It’s pleasant enough and I didn’t want to turn it off but I felt nothing while it was on and, like many of the tracks here, is too long, doesn’t have an ending and stops abruptly. As with the last ten years of Tori Amos singles it failed to chart in the UK.
What’s missing is a variance of tempos throughout the album. It’s all around the same BPM so it gets tired quickly. Up The Creek is the only one that has a bit of a kick to it and sounds a bit like a modern Fleetwood Mac and will be the next single. That said it’s great when Tori returns to her refreshingly simple piano and vocal tracks such as Breakaway and Climb.
There wasn’t much here that grabbed my attention – it often sounds lovely but floats above you rather than around you, it’s music to be played in a room you’re not in. Every now and then a song comes into focus and makes a mark, the “I don’t hate you” on Chocolate Song for example, but otherwise there isn’t much of a reason to listen to it. Somewhere around the turn of the millennium Amos seemed to completely forget how to write choruses and her inability to chart or stay relevant seems directly linked to that. I am however glad her quality control is a little better these days and she’s not churning out twenty track albums anymore.
Native Invader is released via Decca Records on 8th September.