#17: American Doll Posse, Boys For Pele, and Approaching the Big 2-0

I got American Doll Posse today! As you may remember if you’d read some earlier blogs, American Doll Posse is Tori’s 8th studio album, and is often described as being a “depature” for Tori. I enjoy that, because changing and evolving is always good, and this is also described as being her most rock-influenced album. I am a piano player, but I have to say I always find myself drawn more easily to songs with a rock feel. Luckily, Tori combines both on this album, and how successfully I can’t say for sure yet.

The album is 23 tracks long, some of which are “interlude” tracks, lasting only about a minute, like her 1996 album, Boys For Pele, which, by the way, has also come into my possession recently. I gave most of the album a good listen through earlier, and I think I need to hear it a few more times for it to start to sink in. That’s how I handle almost any music I come to really enjoy; I’ve almost never liked an artist the first time I heard them that I would later come to really enjoy. There’s quite a bit going on on this album, and like most of Tori’s music seems to be with me, it’s hit or miss. I think that most of her fans feel that way, because I’ve seen a lot of comments from her fans saying that a certain album was her last good one and then she changed for the worse, and I’ve seen people say that she’s not the old Tori, etc. But I’m going to give this album a good chance, and I’m happy to have it.

American Doll Posse is also a concept album. In the album, Tori plays five different personas, or “dolls.” Each are apparently derived from ancient archetypes, and heavily based on Greek goddesses. For example, the character of Pip is described as being a warrior woman, and is derived from the Greek goddess of war, Athena.

Did I also mention that this album is beautifully formatted? I’m such a geek for good formatting, and this album is just so fun to examine. I got the special edition (and if you’re going to get this album, I highly reccomend getting the special edition, it doesn’t cost too much more than the regular edition and, as I’ve mentioned, it’s gorgeous), which is paperback, and contains a bonus DVD with an extra song and some footage from the album art photo shoot, as well as give post cards featuring the five doll personas. The whole thing is printed on beautiful quality paper, and we haven’t even started on the content.

Clyde, currently my favorite member of the American Doll Posse

There are introductory statements from each doll persona, revealing some of the characteristics of each. My current favorite is Clyde, who says that she tries to see potential in people. While the posse may come off as seeming aggressive, Clyde seems to me to be the kindest of them. She looks a little scary though, and I think that may by the point: she’s so thoughtful and kind, but she doesn’t necessarily seem that way on the inside. It goes along with her message of seeing potential in others, don’t you think?

The songs on the album are sang by the doll personae. All have their own individual songs, but some of them sing backup on another dolls song, and there’s at least one duet: Body and Soul, featuring Santa and Pip, whose archetypical characteristics seem to be beauty and fierceness respectively. I think most fans of American Doll Posse can decipher their voices; I have not yet figured them all out.

Currently the only songs I’ve really heard more than once are Big Wheel, Programmable Soda, and Velvet Revolution, the latter two of which are “interlude” songs. There are a lot of different feels on this album, from the rockabilly Big Wheel to the heavy metal Teenage Hustling, to Velvet Revolution, which my boyfriend’s Dad compared to Cher’s older material (which, for the record, is my favorite material of Cher’s). There’s even a song that strikes me as being a little contemporary country, Secret Spell.

Altogether, American Doll Posse is contemporary, diverse (both of which I like), and a new direction for Tori Amos.

As I mentioned before, I also bought Boys For Pele, and it must be an older copy from 1996, because the album was later re-released. I was under the impression that there were only two releases: the original featuring two songs that would be remixed, Professional Widow and Talula, and the re-relase containing an added remix of Professional Widow immediately following the original, and the “tornado mix” of Talula. The final song of the album was also cut on the re-release. But I seem to have a combination of the two: my copy has the original Professional Widow with no remix, but the “tornado mix” of Talula. At any rate, I have an older copy of it I’m sure.

The album art is always the first thing to attract me to an album, because it’s simply the first thing you see. While you should never judge a book by it’s cover, I find that oftentimes, well-formatted albums spark my interest more than others. Another positive thing about good formatting is that when a listener has had their fill of an album and puts in the shelf, they’ll be more prompted to pick it back up if it has an appealing case. Formatting is really important to me, sometimes I think I might be well-suited to be a producer, or a person who’s in charge of formatting an album. What’s that job title, I wonder?

Something about this picture says "Stay off my lawn."

The albums cover is really cool, it’s Tori sitting on an old dirty porch of a run-down house in a rocking chair, a gun across her lap, a snake coiled by her dirt covered feet, and an expression on her face that reads “I dare you to test me.” There are dead chickens hanging beside her, and on the back cover she’s holding a pig close to her neck and smiling, as snakes slither across the porch. The artwork inside the album is pretty interesting as well, in one picture Tori suckles the piglet from within a carriage, wearing a yearning, somehow loving expression. In another photo she leans against the carriage with one leg up on the wheel, looking fierce (in both senses of the word).

Boys For Pele and American Doll Posse are similar albums in that they both seem to revolve around concepts, and both touch a great deal on religion. Boys For Pele is known to be Tori’s most lyrically obscure album, and indeed it’s lyrics are filled with nearly indecipherable images, but they seem mostly to be about the darker aspects both of people and especially women. Tori has described the album as being about the darker side of the feminine, and I’ve noticed a couple references to homosexuality too. I would wager to guess that when it comes to masculine versus feminine, the Tori we see on the cover, who figuratively “steals fire” from the men in her past, wouldn’t hold so much against we men of the homosexual persuasion. “Stealing fire” from men, and also finding her own fire as a woman, is the concept of the album, being inspired after Tori learned about the Hawaiian volcano goddess Pele.

This album, like American Doll Posse, is divided into four sections, or acts as I call them. I’ve mostly only heard songs from “act one,” but I like what I’ve heard so far. I was at first a little put off by the track titled Father Lucifer, immediately jumping to the idea of a ritualistic worship song (which would be unlike Tori, regardless of what religion), but of course being close-minded is never a good idea, and I have since learned that the song is about the darker side of one’s personality. She wrote the song about an experience in which she took drugs with a South American shaman, and subsequently claims to have visited the devil. I think that sounds like a pretty harrowing experience, but there you are. It’s actually a really pretty track, and during at least one live performance (this particular performance being on the David Letterman show in 1996) segways into the theme from The Excorcist, which I just realized has relevance to the subject of the song.

Caught a Lite Sneeze immediately struck me with it’s blend of what I believe is finger-style guitar and piano played together, creating a really unique sound. Also, and this has no real relevance to anything, but I feel like including it, the song feels very “blue” to me, and not in the sad sense. When I hear it, I just see the color blue for some reason.

So, those are my two new Tori Amos albums, and I’m excited about listening to them, American Doll Posse in particular; Boys For Pele seems to be a fan favorite for Tori, and so far I’m enjoying it as well.

In another matter, I will be turning 20 tomorrow, and I’m just really happy to be celebrating my 20th birthday with my boyfriend, whom I love very much. 🙂 I’m also hoping to get a ride to Best Buy, and maybe some money so that I can afford to buy a USB Microphone. Then I can finally start recording music, and who knows? Maybe I’ll even do a podcast.

So, you all have a blessed day, and the next time I post I will have completed my 19th year in this wonderful and peculiar world of ours, and have begun on my 20th, which I am confident will be the best yet!

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