Read a review of The Beekeeper from TransformOnline.com.
Thanks to Tim for telling me about this review. The best place to read it is online at transformonline.com. You can also read it below. This review will also appear in Lollipop Magazine.
Tori Amos "The Beekeeper" (Epic)
By Tim Den
Getting tougher to find the gold amongst the soot... but still worth the effort.
Although I still hang onto Tori Amos' every move like a pasty high school goth girl, her last few records have steadily declined in terms of cohesion and quality. Thematically, yes, Strange Little Girls, Scarlet's Walk, and Tales of a Librarian: a Collection were wrapped tightly in imaginative narratives that would shame most screenwriters... but when it came down to the actual songs, each album had maybe 30% gold and 70% soot. And even though The Beekeeper doesn't break from that tradition, it reminds us that 30% from Tori is still worth a million bucks.
When the songs hit their target - "Jamaica Inn," "General Joy," "Goodbye Pisces," "Marys of the Sea" - verses grow out of enchanting intros and into choruses, each part naturally extending into the next with a sense of pure continuity. Every nook and cranny makes sense, every chorus goosebumps-inducing, every transition smooth and stylish (much like the insert photos). "Marys of the Sea" especially: it starts off with a bang and never loses momentum or focus. A monumental stomper with a fiery hook, it belies its position at the tail end of the album.
Some aren't so lucky, though: "Sleeps With Butterflies," the title track, and "Martha's Foolish Ginger" all fumble most of their playtime before blossoming into nerve-tingling choruses, which in turn is better than how "Witness," "Original Sinsuality," and "Hoochie Woman" fare. These "70%"-ers drag the album down with bland melodies, mundane lyrics ("original sin? / I don't think so / original sinsuality!"), and - in the case of "Hoochie Woman" - Tori's worst weapon of choice: cheesy "blues." They feel heavy handed, unnecessary, unfinished... and at 19 songs, The Beekeeper certainly could've trimmed them down.
Which is the other problem with the latest Tori Amos albums: length. Scarlet's Walk was a behemoth to take in from start to finish, but at least it had a magnificent story threading all the songs together. The Beekeeper is longer and more abstract (the number six being the hexagon in which bees represent the meaning of life and the six days that God took to create the world and the subversion of women in Christianity...!), taking the listener on an 80 minute (!) journey into sometimes useless territory just for the sake of it. Why? Why didn't Tori turn the 19 songs into 11 really good ones? Maybe it would've resulted in more double/triplespeak metaphorical revelations like "China" instead of "he's cheating on me with a hoochie woman."
But I guess that's asking too much, since the Tori of Little Earthquakes and the Tori of The Beekeeper are very different people. The former had years of pent up anger, resentment, hurt, and other unhealthy voices to speak with, while the latter is a content wife and mother living a happy life. You can't really expect The Beekeeper to be as filled with specters and psychosis. Still though, I yearn for the days when she could spin one line - lyrically or melodically - into webs of possibilities and interpretations. While that day might never come again, you can still find traces of it (about 30% of it, to be exact) on The Beekeeper... which is enough for me to keep coming back.