For Tori Amos, sex can be a weapon, a spiritual offering, or an act of protest. It's certainly been the singer/pianist's big subject since her 1989 debut Little Earthquakes. But while her earliest compositions tried to punch every emotional hot button at once and came off sounding turgid and overblown, her new album packs a greater punch by toning down mock symphonic excess in favour of stark, haunting tracks that contain veiled mysteries. Love cuts both ways on Choirgirl. Songs such as "She's Your Cocaine" and "Cruel" view relationships as vicious power plays, while the protagonists in "Playboy Mommy" and "Northern Lad" desperately seek salvation via emotional connection. Hypnotic, affecting, and frequently gorgeous, From the Choirgirl Hotel is Amos's most accomplished album to date.
With her abstract lyrics, idiosyncratic piano playing and quirky arrangements, Amos has rewritten a good deal of the post Laura Nyro poet gal with a piano rule book since 1992's LITTLE EARTHQUAKES. As her legions of fans can attest, she's already made it plain that she can do the intellectual artiste thing with aplomb. What she proves on FROM THE CHOIRGIRL HOTEL is that she can also rock out with the best of them.
This recording finds her retreating a bit from the singer/songwriter with backing band approach of her previous recordings in favour of a more band oriented approach. Though the songcraft here is up to her usual standards, many of the tunes sound as if they were the product of Amos working closely with her musicians and feeding off their inspiration, rather than cloistering herself away with her diary and piano. Itis this development that makes CHOIRGIRL HOTEL such a refreshing change of pace, and marks the next chapter in the continuing evolution of Tori Amos.
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