A rather negative review of The Beekeeper appeared recently in the Indiana Daily Student newspaper. (They do not date the article online, so I can not say when...) The album is given a C+.
Thanks to Lindsay for telling me about this review, which you can read online at idsnews.com or below:
Feminist rocker goes FM
by Kehla West
The good news is that my stuffy old Aunt Helen may now be able to be a Tori Amos fan. Good job, Tori, you've won over a convert.
The bad news is that she's dangerously close to losing a longtime fan: me.
The problem with The Beekeeper is typical to many artists who, once they get older, are too scared of alienating their fans to do something truly new. The artists want to expand their oeuvre and try new things, but they don't want to go too far. It happened to R.E.M. with this year's stinker Around the Sun. When artists go out and expand without trying to hang on to yesteryear's sound, they produce mindbending albums, like the Red Hot Chili Pepper's 1999 Californication.
With Beekeeper, Tori is trying terribly hard to follow up 2002's Scarlet's Walk. Walk was a good album, a little bland for Tori, but not bad because she demonstrated the promise of returning to her fabulous piano-based style. She cleverly released the greatest hits/remix album Tales of a Librarian in 2003 to introduce her newfound fans to her catalogue. The last five years have been good for Tori fans.
But for a listener who cut her teeth on 1992's Little Earthquakes and 1998's From the Choirgirl Hotel, this year's Beekeeper is just disappointing. It has its moments, as do most albums. The title track is a nice electronica-tinged piece, but after "Spark," my expectations for Tori Amos' brand of electronica were a little high. After a song as wonderfully danceable as "Raspberry Swirl," I don't want to dance to "Raspberry Swirl Lite."
Maybe that's the problem. If Amos hadn't been so good before, this record wouldn't be a problem. It's not terrible, it's perfectly listenable. Perhaps it isn't fair to say the album isn't good. It's just not as good as what her fans know she's capable of. There will be a lot of people who will like this record, and they'll be perfectly within their rights to do so. But they'll be the type of people who will download a backlog of Amos' songs, only to quickly delete them because they're "too weird."
Amos' charm comes from being strange and inaccessible. She's the modern art of popular indie music: born of alienation and turmoil, and capable of turning that into lush music. But with Beekeeper, Amos goes FM radio and doesn't even bother to do it well. She uses Irish singer-songwriter and indie scene darling Damien Rice on one track, but dares to waste his beautiful voice on a piece of crap like "The Power of Orange Knickers." The orchestration blows, the lyrics are inane and the two artists have no vocal chemistry. The song that has been getting radio airplay, "Sleeps With Butterflies," is good in the vein of "A Sorta Fairytale" or "Another Girl's Paradise." I have no complaints, really. I just have a grumbly feeling telling me with a little smacking around, this song, and in turn, this album, could've been the fulfillment that Scarlet's Walk promised.
Amos will undoubtedly both lose and gain fans with this album. I'm just hoping that her new fans have the sense to straighten up their ears and realize that if they think this is, like, a really great Tori Amos album, they should be thinking harder.