A review of The Beekeeper was posted to ign.com on March 8, 2005. You can now read it on The Dent.
Thanks to Stephanie for making me aware of this review. You can read it online at ign.com or below:
Tori Amos: The Beekeeper
Half of the tracks sting you sweet, but the rest just buzzes pleasantly by.
March 08, 2005 - There was a time when it seemed that Tori Amos would never make a bad record. Then came 2001's Strange Little Girls, a nails-on-blackboard collection of pretentious covers that veered sharply away from Amos' signature brand of lilting yet caustic piano music. On 2003's Scarlet's Walk, Amos returned to form with an effort that rivals Under the Pink in terms of complexity and melody, and outstrips that album in its maturity and grace. The Beekeeper continues the trend, and although the record is slightly bloated at nineteen songs, it is another welcome addition to the Amos canon.
Like Margaret Atwood in fiction, Amos is fascinated by how nature and the female spirit intertwine, and her songs ooze with organic, sexual juices. The imagery on The Beekeeper consistently conjures up dangerous images of the wild and transposes them onto human sexuality (or merely acknowledges them as a part of untamed nature), as in "Sweet the Sting:" "Shake me sane because I'm inching ever closer to the tip of this scorpion's tail." The organ and groovy, slinky guitar perfectly accent Amos' husky sweet tone on this poisonous nature grind, the best on the record.
"The Power of Orange Knickers" is the first significant song on an Amos record to feature a prominent male vocalist. Damien Rice does the honors, underlining Amos' vocals on this bitter but melodic ballad of hurt and betrayal. Following it is "Jamaica Inn," a classic Amos cut that includes the excellent lyric "the sexiest thing is trust." Subdued and soaked in metaphor, the song is as radio-ready as anything on The Beekeeper.
Another track destined to make a radio splash is "Sleeps With Butterflies," a delicate, dreamy song laced with Amos' signature harmonies. Blessed with a soaring and infectious chorus, "Sleeps With Butterflies" deals with the standard Amos themes of slippery love and inevitable loss thereof. "This girl only sleeps with Butterflies... so go on and fly boy."
"Cars and Guitars" is a bit of a departure, sliding lazily into a sure blues groove before building to a powerful chorus. It's Tracy Chapman's "Fast Cars" for the Amos set, and it works amazingly well. Diving into tangy soul, "Witness" also distinguishes itself. With an organ line that alternates between snarl and mellow warble it's perfectly balanced with Amos' playful growl. The descending chorus run and subdued bridge round out one of the richest tracks on the record.
"Ireland" is a catchy but laid-back road anthem complete with "sha na na na" backing vocals and a chill bass line, perfectly placed after "Original Sinsuality" to lighten the mood.
The title track "The Beekeeper" is the classic Amos, alternating between ominous and sweet. It's also got some of the more opaque lyrics on the record: "I will comb myself into chains/ In between the tap dance clan and your ballerina gang." It hearkens back to some of Amos' earlier work, although the melodies are not as interesting. Given her growth on Scarlet's Walk and in places on this record, "The Beekeeper" actually seems out of place, especially for a title song.
"Hoochie Woman" is perhaps the most up-tempo tune on the album, featuring caveman backing vocals, a beefy piano hook and "Ooh hoo hoo" chorus. Much more compact and single-minded than many of the songs on The Beekeeper, it almost goes by too fast, sometimes bearing immediate repetition.
While the entire album is a pleasant listen, at times the record dissolves into a mellow, dreamlike collection of like-sounding melodies. "Mother Revolution," "Ribbons Undone," "Barons of Suburbia," "Martha's Foolish Ginger" and "Goodbye Pisces" flow by almost unnoticed, with similar arrangements, song structures, and ultimately forgettable choruses. Half a dozen songs could have been trimmed to make The Beekeeper more concise and viable, but Tori Amos has never been one for short albums, and the wheat here far outweighs the chaff.
Sweet the Sting
-- Chris Carle
Overall Score: 7.5