The Observer (University of Notre Dame's student newspaper)
October 26, 1999

Added March 2, 2001

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A review of "to venus and back" appeared in the October 26, 1999 edition of the University of Notre Dame's student newspaper called The Observer. You can read it below or at The Observer web site. Thanks to Erin M. English for telling me about it.

Cornflake girl's lyrics alienate pop-hungry masses

Scene Music Critic

Sweet little Tori Amos, what are they going to do with you?

Although the macho men of the world have scorned her, Amos maintains a loyal following from her obsessive female fans and groupies of the sensitive male variety. Recently, the cornflake girl released a double disc; the first disc is full of brand new studio material while the second disc showcases her greatest hits performed live.

No one has ever questioned her songwriting skills or musicianship, but people have sometimes poked fun at her "deep" lyrics. Does Tori finally write a record that will be accessible to the pop-hungry masses? How does the live album hold up in relation to its studio counterparts?

The first disc, "Orbiting," starts off strongly with the haunting and dark sounds of "Bliss." The pulsing piano figure that anchors the track is a great momentum builder that eventually leads to the perfect chorus. However, some of the lyrics are just annoying. It's understandable that she is not going to spell out everything in her songs, but what the hell does this mean: "Father, I killed my monkey." What business does she have keeping a pet monkey in the house? Our friends at the Animal Rights Bureau would sure be happy to find out about this, wouldn't they?

The rest of the disc is filled with peaks and valleys. Four of the songs, "Juarez," "Glory of the 80s," "Suede" and "Riot Poof" are horrible. There is no other word to describe them. The main problem with these tracks is the huge role electronica plays in each of them. "Juarez" sounds more like "Ray of Light" by Madonna and Amos' distorted voice on "Riot Poof" is just plain disgusting.

"Lust," by far strongest song on the record, finds Amos blending a beautiful melody with halfway normal lyrics. The piano during the transition section is simply breathtaking Amos hits the perfect chord at just the right time. Too bad all of her songs aren't like that.

Tunes such as "Josephine" have such promise, but either fade musically or make no lyrical sense (at least to the shallow, macho male.) On "Glory of the 80s" she even tries to use the Austin Powers term "shag." She's desperate for someone to throw her a bone.

The live disc is pretty great, if you like falling asleep 15 minutes into a concert. Studies show that nine out of 10 doctors prescribe the live disc of "To Venus and Back" to insomnia patients. Once again, the disc starts off with the great hit "Precious Things," but falters with the loud "Cruel."

Tori picks herself up with the enjoyable "Cornflake Girl," but after that make sure you know how to count sheep. The songs are not that bad, but not that great either. The problem is Tori suddenly stops playing with the rest of the band and takes on the crowd by herself. You'll probably wake up just in time to hear her rattle off some nonsense about a guy named "Mr. Zebra." Or maybe she is talking to the animal we all know how she keeps wild animals in the house

Now Amos' loyal fans will not be happy with this review, but something had to be said. She is a lovely pianist that can sometimes take even the manliest man's breath away. But the lyrics, the painful lyrics, drag the poor girl down. What to do with Tori? Lock her up in the zoo and come visit her along with the monkeys and zebras.


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