Alternative Rock, 2002
How’s this for a concept? After the Sept 11 events, Tori Amos took a trip across America, writing music on her travels, and the result is Scarlet’s Walk. A fascinating concept, although her critics will have enough ammunition to call her pretentious yet again. Alas, Scarlet’s Walk is one of the blandest works of hers.
Ms Amos has always been interesting even at her most vague and forbidding (Boys for Pele, anyone?). Scarlet’s Walk sees her returning to the piano with only a little accompaniment. Again, critics can say that seeing how her fans violently reject her more produced sounds, this is Ms Amos returning to where the money is. But to be fair, she still has some interesting stories to tell of porn stars and failed love affairs. Only this time someone screwed up the CD booklet so that I cannot make out the lyrics without getting cataracts. Maybe a more determined Toriphile will pressed his or her ear to the speakers and transcribe every word (beware: Ms Amos’ enunciation is still as bad as ever), but I can’t really work up the enthusiasm.
The problem here is most of the tracks seem to echo her finest moments in Little Earthquakes, From the Choirgirl Hotel, and Under the Pink. The opening track Amber Waves sounds eerily like From the Choirgirl Hotel‘s leftovers with some White Horses reject stuck to the riffs. A Sorta Fairytale and Pancake are my favorites, but I have heard better tracks from Tori Amos.
Maybe that’s the problem: Scarlet’s Walk is so safe and predictable that it is hard not to replace it with her better albums in the past. I like Technophile Tori, even when her lyrics seem to have fallen to pieces, because to me, she needs to go somewhere and after three albums, the piano thing is really sounding stale. Scarlet’s Walk, with its familiar piano riffs that seem to echo tracks from her past, evoke “Where have I heard this before?” from me rather than any sense of awe or marvel I use to get when listening to Ms Amos.
I’ve moved on the inner girl catharsis, and for a while, it seems that Ms Amos is moving along with me. Now she wants to go back to square one, and I don’t think I’d like to go back there with her. We can’t wallow in self-absorption forever. When Mariah Carey sounds more right than Ms Amos – we should spread wings and fly like butterflies, et cetera – something is really very, very wrong here. And the wrong here is Scarlet’s Walk, a great album from a nobody, but a lousy Tori Amos album.