Album Review
September 30, 1999

Added March 15, 2000

A review of "to venus and back" appeared at on September 30, 1999. This review wins my award as the most irrelevant review written about this album. If you want to read it, check out or look below.

The album was given 1.5 ears out of a possible 6.

Tori Amos is from Venus
by Jeff Weiser

Last week, white cheerleaders and other victims of sexual indignities temporarily put down their Jewel poetry, sketch books, and aromatherapy to purchase Tori Amos's new double CD, To Venus and Back. With the most affected voice since Morrissey, an encyclopedic knowledge of elementary mythology, and a penchant for printing her lyrics, Tori might be trying to distract us from her music. I promise you that won't happen.

In the past I have offended TheSpark's readers by telling things pretty much as they are. Though I frankly don't care too much about your feelings, some cases require a little extra sensitivity. It is a harsh truth that Tori Amos was a victim of rape and that many other victims find solace in her music. This comfort is not something I would ever want to diminish. In this review, however, I will call attention to what I consider legitimate and non-legitimate uses of Tori's biographical information.

If you are a victim of sexual violence, the simple knowledge that pain and anger can be channeled into a constructive artistic medium can be invaluable. If you have suffered a lesser offense, like being asked to the prom by a member of the defensive line instead of the quarterback, you are hereby prohibited from comparing your plight to Tori's. Although you may see elements of your own emotions in songs like "Me and a Gun," recourse to the author's biography should only help put your problems in perspective.

Further, I am going to ask now that no one flood my inbox with statements like "something bad once happened to Tori so her music must be good." This is what we call a non sequitur, or a series of statements with no logical progression. I am fully willing to concede misfortune to an artist without praising the content that arises from it. In short, I won't be emotionally blackmailed into liking this album.

Lyrically, To Venus and Back is pretentious and vague--a musical Rorsharch test in which the recently jilted are likely to find "deep" meaning without textual evidence. ClichÈ lines like "Taste the sweet of Spring" rank Tori somewhere between Sylvia Plath and Jim Morrison as a poetess, so you're probably undermining your own intelligence if you claim to understand them. Like the Emperor in the childhood parable, Tori's lyrics aren't wearing any clothes. They never were.

Musically, Ms. Amos's latest work is hardly innovative or even substantial. Despite a cultural tendency to view piano music as inherently better than, say, guitar music, To Venus and Back is pop music at its simplest and most banal. A crafty hook here and there salvages self-indulgent lyrics but leaves Tori firmly in the league of Semisonic and Third Eye Blind. As for the second disc--a live album of cuts from the 1998 "From the Choirgirl Hotel" tour--Amos isn't exactly an improvisational master, so don't expect to see Carlos Santana on stage with her anytime soon. It's true that the background applause is pretty loud, but that only confirms the number of teenage white females who burned their hands swaying lighters to mediocre music.

Take it Sleazy,

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