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Illinois Entertainer (US)
Chicagoland's Music Monthly
October 2007

[excerpt from]

Five Times A Lady

by Tom Lanham

Tori Amos has released a new album for Epic, American Doll Posse, with an ensuing tour that hits Chicago on November 5th. And if only such a simple explanation would suffice. As with all things in this Cornwall-based keyboardist's 15-year career, there's much more lurking just beneath the apparently serene surface. So you can't really merely take this 23-song set at face value; you have to view it in a much larger context, counting the ripples made by such a pebble as it skips into the pond.

Initially, Posse may seem like a friendly collection of compositions, ranging from cultural musings like "Digital Ghost" and "Programmable Soda" to pointedly political treatises like "Yo George" and "Devils And Gods," with unusually blues-heavy rockers like "Big Wheel" as pressure-valve interludes. But here's the typically Tori twist: They are sung by one of five fictional characters the artist conjured up, using mythical Greek goddesses as guides. And each persona -- depicted in different wigs and outfits on the album cover -- will put in a cameo appearance in concert. All feature the word "Tori" in their nomenclature, as well: There's the photographer Isabel (HisTORIcal), inspired by Artemis; the somber Persephone-founded Clyde (CliTORIdes); Pip (ExpiraTORIal), a teen-hustler take on Athena; and an Aphrodite-ish Santa (SanaTORIum; "Because the Aphrodite archetype has turned into madness and perversion, and Santa is trying to work through this by having love for the female body and self-respect," Amos explains). Last, but not least -- Tori herself (TerraTORIes), an amped-up version of herself echoing Demeter and Dionysus.

Amos tracked the album at her own Martian Engineering Studios back home in Britain, but put a Yankee spin on the subject matter as a longstanding citizen of the United States. What does it all truly mean? A simple story wouldn't do this conceptualist craft-clarifying justice. But one of her trademark intellectual interview/dissertations just might. Read on.

IE: On your last album, you sang metaphorically about bees. And now, ironically, the bees are dying, en masse, around the world. With humanity, of course, not too far on up the extinction food chain. Why don't people see this more clearly?

TORI AMOS: I do wonder, How do you permeate people's . . . whatever it is they put up to get up in the morning, go and get their work done, and pay their bills? How do you get through with ideas and thoughts that might get them to start thinking about the next 30, 50 years and their part in it? That's really key, because being a minister's daughter, I've found that preaching doesn't work very well. Preaching can work, but sometimes it can work the other way.

IE: There's a photo of you on the new record, arms outstretched in maybe supplication, blood running down your leg, with "shame" scrawled across one hand, a Bible in the other.

TA: Oh, I wouldn't say that's supplication. I would say that's defiance. And if you clap your hands, you hit the Bible with the word shame. And shame is the moniker that's been put on women by the patriarchal fathers of the Christian church. Anything that has to do with our bodies and our sexuality and our ability to create that involves our privates and the . . . the wonderfulness which is woman, has been made a perjorative. So that is defiance with that Bible -- those are their words, not mine. And she's bleeding and she's challenging that entity. The whole idea of American Doll Posse is, how do you combat the Christian right wing? And the only way I can see is through their ideology. And obviously their ideology is based on the monarchy of male authority. So what's the one thing that they just cannot accept? That they abhor? Women as mother gods. So let's bring on the mother gods! I went back to the Greek pantheon, and that's the basis.

IE: Santa was the only Posse character I was unclear on.

TA: She holds Aphrodite. But unfortunately, especially in our country, what I observe is that Aphrodite has been the most damaged. And when you look at damaged Aphrodite, women that have held projections of sexuality have then been turned into this perversion, this demeaning kind of expression, as opposed to a sacredness. So how do you turn the profanity into something sacred? Now that's a bit of alchemy that takes a little bit of doing. But we can do it, as women. But not when we see it as something dirty, and not when we allow ourselves to be demeaned.

IE: Yet every time I turn on the TV, there's an ad for Girls Gone Wild. Drunken college co-eds who swear "It's my first tiiiiime" as they happily strip for men holding the cameras.

TA: Well, we can tell ourselves anything, can't we? We can tell ourselves that we're making a liberating choice by allowing ourselves to be an object. But if you really believe that to be true, then you haven't done a lot of work on yourself. There has to be a place where you become the subject of your life. Now, if you choose to partake in erotica, that is a choice you make. But let's hope you make yourself the subject and not an object to be emotionally defecated on, or physically defecated on. You have to really know what you're doing to get involved in perversion. You have to really know how to transmute that and take it to the other side. I'm not telling you that there are no women that have an idea how to do this, because they do exist out there.

To further delve into Tori Amos' inner machinations, read the October issue of Illinois Entertainer.

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