Strange Little Girls

TORI AMOS: Strange Little Girls (Atlantic) As Tori Amos' career has transpired over the last ten years or so, she's gotten progressively closer to 'freakdom.' That's not necessarily a bad thing, but if you weren't already a fan, there wasn't much of a reason to check out her music. However, with her new album of covers, Strange Little Girls, that may all change. Yes, she's still as freakish as ever, but her twists on these 12 songs are sure to gather some attention. The most unusual thing about this album is the material that Amos decided to use. Cover songs are nothing unusual for Tori, but tracks by Slayer, Eminem, and The Velvet Underground aren't exactly what you'd expect. However, that's exactly what makes the album so interesting.

Amos approached the songs from a woman's point of view--describing the way men see women, the way they see themselves, and how the view changes depending on where you're standing. A perfect example is her chilling interpretation of Eminem's "97'/Bonnie & Clyde." "When I first heard the song, the scariest thing to me was the realization that people are getting into the music and grooving along to a song about a man who is butchering his wife," explains Tori. I've been a Tori Amos fan since 92's Little Earthquakes album, and I don't know that I've heard a more powerful performance from her. The way she whispers the song's lyric is absolutely chilling.

The first single from the disc will be the title track, "Strange Little Girl." Originally recorded by The Stranglers in 1982, this is one of the few songs on the CD with a full band. Amos returns to the familiar 'girl and her piano' format for "Enjoy the Silence," serving up a beautiful rendition of the Depeche Mode hit. 10CC's "I'm Not in Love" sounds more like a demo than a finished track here, with its minimalistic drum machine accompaniment. You're not going to hear the 64-track overdubs like you did on the original. Neil Young fans, be warned--aside from the lyrics, Tori's version of "Heart of Gold" is unrecognizable. Loud and dissonant, the song is the polar opposite of the original version.

Accompanied by only an electric piano, "I Don't Like Mondays" is one of the best songs on the CD. Amos turns in one of her most beautiful performances here, both vocally and musically. Aside from the Eminem track, the most interesting thing here is Tori's version of The Beatles' "Happiness is a Warm Gun." Interspersed with assorted sound bites, the 9:55 track is completely different from the original. It's back to the 'girl and her piano' format for Joe Jackson's "Real Men." It's a bit strange hearing a woman sing the song, but she does a good job with it.

Strange Little Girls is an interesting collection of tunes, and one that requires several listens before you can truly appreciate it. Not all of the songs work, but the ones that do, work well. Tori fans are sure to want this disc in their collections, and fans of the artists covered here should check it out as well.

Editor's Note - This CD is also available on vinyl.

© 2001 Tim Hartin
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