Much like my review of the latest Eels album, it surprises me that this is only the third review of a Tori Amos album on this blog. The other two were the excellent Under The Pink (1994) and the average Night Of Hunters (2011), you can read them both HERE.
The first time I heard Tori was on a singles review on Radio 1 back in 1991 and Silent All These Years was their single of the week. At the time I was a 16 year old with a mullet who refused to listen to anything that wasn’t metal. I thought Silent All These Years was the most beautiful thing I’d ever heard and went all googly eyed over it. I’ve been a fan ever since and Little Earthquakes is still one of my top 5, all time favourite albums of all time.
Over the years the quality of her albums has dipped somewhat. The first four or so are pretty much flawless but from The Beekeeper onwards I’ve found them to be a little dull and ploddy. There’s been the odd spark of greatness and some fantastic songs but they’re all at least 17 tracks long and outstay their welcome. It’s frustrated me because, with some stern pruning, could be great.
Unrepentant Geraldines is her 13th proper studio album (not including 2012’s Gold Dust that was orchestral versions of previous songs) and is due to be released on May 12th. I’ve only been able to listen to it the once so I’m basing this review on some hastily written notes that is hindered by both my peculiar handwriting and short hand that baffles even myself. It’s quite likely that my opinion on several of these songs will change after proper listens. I’ll probably get some stuff wrong too but there we go.
My confusing notes
The opening track is America which is nice enough but fairly slow and unremarkable as an album opener. It has a Sixties pop feel to it and does kick in nicely about a minute in.
The first single from the album is Trouble’s Lament which comes next. Lyrically it seems to Anthropomorphise Trouble as an entity that has escaped from Hell to protect women from danger. I think? Anyway, it has an ominous feeling to it that fits with the theme nicely. It’s one of the better songs she’s done for a while.
Wild Way is slower and more in line with vintage Tori. Mostly just her and a piano and begins with opening line of ‘I hate you’. As I said, vintage Tori. I think it’s about the break-up of couple that have been together for quite some time. The chorus line goes “You used to love my Wild Ways” so I’d say so. It’s a really good song. Wedding Day starts off with some acoustic guitar and some parpy hammond organ. It sort of reminds me of Cornflake Girl in its nod along melody and chorus.
Weatherman (three W songs in a row!) is another slower song, it’s not a bad song but doesn’t have anything about it that immediately springs out. Ooh I did quite like the line “Can you paint her back to life?”. I think it might be a song that ingrains itself after a few listens. I’m not sure.
16 Shades Of Blue, sees programming, bleeps and electronic beats crop up. It comes across all 90’s Trip Hop but not in a good way. It’s kind of like the remix of Tom’s Diner in it's melody line, I really wasn't keen on it. Maids Of Elfen-Mere, by contrast, is possibly the best song on the album. It starts with some plinky plonky piano and sounds like the songs that might play in the opening credits of a dark, family Christmas film. Something like Edward Scissorhands or Gremlins.
A quick google reveals Maids of Elfen-Mere to be a painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti who, in turn, based his painting on an old ballad by William Allingham. The ballad about three ghostly maidens who appeared every night in a village, they span in circles, sung songs until the eleventh hour and were loved by all the villagers. They sound horrific to me. Tori’s song is lovely though.
Promises is apparently a duet with her 13 year old daughter Natashya. I have to confess I didn’t notice which makes me assume that her voice is quite similar to her mothers. It’s an alright song but forgettable and a bit repetitive. Giant’s Rolling Pin stands out on Unrepentant Geraldines like, like, well, like a giant’s rolling pin. It’s a joyous, bouncy song that must have been written with kids in mind cos it sounds like something off of Jackanory or Rainbow or some other very, very old children’s show I used to watch. I really like it but can’t help feel it might have been better served as a b-side.
Selkie is okay, it’s just a typical Tori song, nothing remarkable about it. Unrepentant Geraldines is the longest song on the album at just under seven minutes long, It starts with some tweeting birds before the piano comes in. the first verse sounds like a standard Tori song but then some crazy eighties pop guitar butts in to lift the chorus someplace else. It’s good but a good two minutes could have been left off.
Oysters is just Tori and a piano but, like Selkie it’s easily forgotten. Rose Dover is a weird, Queen-esque prong song that sees Tori giving advice to her teenage self. I quite liked the line “You don’t have to throw being a kid away just because you’re growing up”. Something like that anyway, I can’t read my handwriting!
The final track is Invisible Boy and it’s a haunting, pretty song that’s stripped down and sorrowful. It’s a fitting, if miserable, end to the album.
Unrepentant Geraldines then, is a solid album but not a great one. It’s not as long as The Beekeeper, Scarlet’s Walk, American Doll Posse etc but could still do with losing two, three or even four tracks. It’s reasonably varied but not greatly so. It has some decent songs but no essential ones. It’s a frustrating thing because it’s by no means a bad album, it just could have been better. Hopefully it'll grow on me with repeated listens and I'll still be buying it, just like all the others, once it's officially released.
Best Track – Maids Of Elfen-Mere
6 Out Of 10 - Now I see where you were going, but not quite there
Pre-Order it on Amazon HERE
Listen to it on Spotify HERE