6 October 2017

Tori Amos - Native Invader


The relationship with Tori Amos and ATTIWLTMOWOS is one of genesis, as Night of Hunters was my first review.  I was not kind to it to be honest, but it was not one of her best pieces.  But she has wrote some fantastic albums over the years.  Our old blogger Luke reviewed her last album Unrepentant Geraldines (our review cleverly linked here) was a solid, but not great release.  Whilst it might seem that we are being too hard on Ms. Amos, I think it is probably due to her impressive back catalogue and the fact she is such a talented artist.  However, with high standards come criticism when albums are not up to those high-water marks such as Under the Pink, From the Choir Girl Hotel and many more.  But it has been three years since that last release, so what has Tori to say on Native Invader?

01 – The Reindeer King

With a slow rise from silence to a powerful piano style, “The Reindeer King” is a haunting introduction to Native Invader.  For a seven minute plus number, it is a captivating number that discusses assisting some return to their old self, with a journey through the woods and over frozen lakes towards home.  It is a declaration of love, showing how far someone would go to help a loved one.  It is a song that bridges her old style with her latter day works, one that will be received well by all of her fans.

02 – Wings

A song about being about an epiphany, about someone who has realised the sacrifices that have been made to assist someone else grow and the pain that these labours have inflicted on the other person.  It is a song that begs for forgiveness, filled with remorse and it is performed with a gentle touch.  It is a gentle song, one which sounds as if it requires time to sink in as there is no drama, it is handled with protective gloves and it feels strange to be honest.  As I am not 100% too sure about it, I cannot make up my mind about it yet, but ”Wings” is not a poor number to be honest, just one that I will be listening to for a while to figure out how I feel about it.

03 – Broken Arrow

With a full band, “Broken Arrow” is a message about that is not being heard.  It is about a Nation that is being taken for granted, the patience’s that has been enduring is slowly burning up.  The anger about the land that is slowly being poisoned, about how industry is killing everything in the name of profit and the American Dream is choking out everything that was held sacred by the original owners of the land.  Once again, it is not in any hurry in terms of pace, but it is a beautiful song that is a powerful protest number that makes the hairs on your neck stand on edge.

04 – Cloud Riders

A gentle song of defiance, regretting that the events that have led to this moment, but steadfast in determination about the fight to come.  Once again it is a gentle song that I am not sure about, but it is not a bad number either.  It is just one that sort of passes me by a little and it is hard to form an opinion on straight away. 

05 – Up the Creek

“Up the Creek” is another dynamic song, one with sharp differences in structure between the verse and chorus sections that it immediately stands out from the gentler numbers.  An electronic influenced number, one which is not for the dancefloor, but it is for the synth lover who loves how sounds can be manipulated and twisted into new patterns.  It is a great number, one that could be a new hit for Tori, one that is one of her most refreshing songs in many moons.

06 – Breakaway

Betrayal is the subject which is dealt with on “Breakaway”, a song that is laced with regrets and laments that nothing was said before everything was shattered into pieces.  It breaks the trend of the album with the even numbered songs being pieces that are not immediately accessible, the angry nature of the words is enforced into the music, giving the song a painful edge that will cut an audience into silence.  It demands and deserves attention, it is Tori Amos at her best when she is in control of everything in front of her.

07 – Wildwood

This song is one that is going to take a lot longer to make its lasting impression, it is not an instant classic or an immediate flop, but a grower.  This tends to be the natural state for most of Tori’s material for me, it always takes a more than a few listens to skin in.  However, it is definitely worth the effort and it grows in depths with each listen.

08 – Chocolate Song

Going back to basics with this song, “Chocolate Song” is another reflective song which mourns the change of a relationship and wishing that things could be different.  It is a fragile number, another which is not an immediate stunner, but it has a certain something that is intriguing.  A strange number, one that I will make up my mind about in many years’ time to be honest.

09 – Bang
With a dramatic introduction, “Bang” is song that takes the heart out of human and to feel nothing, just process all these chemicals and to stop the hurt that is enveloping the person.  The first time I heard it, it felt a little too long.  But upon reflection the length is about right, as Tori has a lot to work with on this song.  It moves in different directions and have defined verses, bridges, a chorus and the ending of the song.  It is a brilliant number, another which is gaining momentum in my mind.

10 – Climb

A song about trespass and youthful rebellion, when you everything was now and you felt the excitement of the unknown.  It is a reflective song; one in which the memories are obviously strong as it feels delicate to the touch, it has a rose-tinted appeal and the words are mixed with a strong piano piece and the rest of instruments are lower in the mix.  It is not my favourite on this album, but it is still enjoyable.

11 – Bats

If only this was about Batman…... However, we cannot always have what we want.  This is the first song which passes me by to be honest, it feels like it could be the music for a day time soap opera and it does not appeal as much as other songs on this record.  But once again, it is a song that improves with each listen and that is important, it shows that there is something going on and it sort of feeds into one of my points in the conclusion.  Also, is the reference to the Kindly Ones a reference to the Sandman comics by Neil Gaiman?

12 – Benjamin

Benjamin” is another song that is laced with memories, protesting politics and the feeling that you are just hearing a small part of a larger story.  It is another which I am not sure about as it is so open to interpretation, this one has been gnarling away at me the most and I am no closer to a decision about it as I was when I first heard it.  I know it will make sense in years to come, but sometimes you wish for an instant fix.

13 – Mary’s Eyes

Pleading for a lifesaver to bring someone back from behind the curtain invisible, the feeling of despair and an overall sense of confusion is what I gained from “Mary’s Eyes”.  Ms. Amos has created a chilling song here, the piano and strings sounds as if they are being played in the middle of a snow storm and it is effective as you get shivers when listening to it.  But it is still an enigma to me, I am sure I will get it someday.

14 – Upside Down 2

As we reach the penultimate track of this album, Tori is back to her dramatic best with “Upside Down 2”.  This song about a change in life and the feeling about changing for the better is the emotive core of this song, coming out of a life-wrecking event and gaining some sense of preceptive at the other side.  I love it when she keeps it simple, just her and the piano.  This is one of my favourite songs of the album, a song that follows the pattern of this album and improves with each listen.

15 – Russia

The ending of this album is a short song which starts with a sample of radio, it is about how people should come together and work towards the common good.  It is a powerful ending to this album, illustrating what is wrong with American politics and to be honest, with the rest of the world as well.  It is straight to the point and ends this record with a statement of intent.

As always with a Tori Amos album, I never get it right straight away and I generally make my mind up about ten months after it has been released.  So, the mark I am giving this album needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, as it is very definitely subject to change.  It is a beautiful album, but the feeling of confusion and anticipation of gaining further information down the line are the main things I took from this album.  It is not a bad thing, but it can feel frustrating as well.  However, there are a few things that are clear straight away.  This is possibly the strongest album by Ms. Amos that I have heard in years, one which matches her best work on more than one occasion.  This is not something I have thought about a Tori Amos record in an awfully long time, usually because each album could be split into two and have a clever album and an interesting EP.  If I am honest, this album could have stood to lose three to four songs as well, it would have made for a leaner album that leaves the listener in awe from the start.  However, we do not live in that fantasy world, we live in this one and it does not detract from the overall feeling or work of Ms Amos.  It feels as if a hunger has awakened on this album, with some subtle and delicate number to thrill all who are blessed with the gift of hearing.  I would not be surprised if this album ended up in my end of year chart, it is a beautiful record.

8 out of ten – Oh, now you have my attention as well as my time, money and heart

Top track – Up the Creek

You can purchase Native Invader on Amazon here.





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