Tori Amos: Little Earthquakes

AMERICAN SINGER/ SONGWRITER Tori Amos sounds a lot like Mary Margaret O’Hara and Victoria Williams. And while it’d be nice to think that whatever she lacks in originality she makes up for in memorable tunes and lyrics, it wouldn’t be entirely accurate.

It’s what Amos does within the structure of her songs that’s compelling and often startling. She seems to have little nervous breakdowns, marked by sudden changes of volume, key, arrangement, or all three, and then return to a sort of post injection sedate funk. But what’s important here is not how she dishes it out but how you take it.

Amos dredges up a lot of personal unpleasantness and dresses it in layers and choruses of importance. Though the ghost of ‘Happy Phantom’ is more of a playful fairy, complete with tinkling bells, the living memory of ‘Me And a Gun’ is harrowing and violent. It is sung acappella, in a frantic whisper, as if she’s in confession or under the bedclothes with her best friend. When Amos does let you in, as in ‘Silent All These Years’, she sends up her own genre with catty cleverness: “So you find a girt who thinks really deep thoughts: what’s so amazing about really deep thoughts“.

The worst thing about Amos is that it’s hard to know what the hell she’s on about: the best thing is, it doesn’t matter.

© Michele KirschSelect, February 1992

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