Alternative Rock, 2005
Poor Tori Amos. Those formerly teenage professional wrist-slashers that make up the bulk of her more demented fans are in full revolt, apparently, because The Beekeeper is probably her most sanguine CD to date. No angry songs! No songs with vague and forbidding lyrics that these fans can imagine to be personal epic stories of their life’s many humiliations! No more listening to Tori Amos and weeping in a fetal position! Some of these teenage girls may even have to stop pretending to be lesbians because it’s no longer “cool” or “anti-establishment” to be different in a suicidal outcast manner! Hmm, come to think of it, if she manages to drive away those mentally-unstable wackos, it is actually a good thing for the sane fans who are embarrassed to be associated with these weirdos!
There is some undercurrent of melancholy in some of 19 songs here but on the whole, the now forty-something Ms Amos is at peace with herself. As she says increasingly often in the press nowadays, she sees herself as a storyteller of sorts. With that in mind, it makes sense that this CD seems to be telling all sorts of stories instead of an angry exorcism from the depths of Ms Amos’ psyche.
Musically, there is no electronic elements here. It’s like a regression of sorts to the days of Under the Pink. On the other hand, she has ditched the excesses of her vague lyrics, giving me one of the most coherent CD from her, lyrics-wise.
There are a surprisingly high number of radio-friendly tracks here. Radio-friendly ballads like Sleeps With Butterflies (“I’m not like the girls you’ve known, but I believe I’m worth coming home to”) and Ribbons Undone are beautiful easy-listening experiences while tracks like General Joy and The Power of Orange Knickers are well-crafted rock-like tracks with infectious hooks. There is a pleasant surprise in the catchy Caribbean-influenced Hoochie Woman but Ms Amos is never at her strongest when she is dabbling in sounds that are not entirely her own. I’m not sure about her growled-out “accent” in Cars and Guitars but that track is a fine one to singalong to.
Lyrically, this is Ms Amos at her strongest despite the CD being influenced by Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland. Goodbye Pisces is probably her most heartbreaking break-up song since Tear in Your Hand. In Parasol, she sings about being in shock after receiving some call (the nature of this call is not specified) that she can only look at a painting of a woman with a parasol and imagines being that woman, so that she can always be safe behind that frame. My favorite track, Martha’s Foolish Ginger, is a bittersweet story of past foolishness and getting a second chance to live life a little… wiser.
With The Beekeeper, Ms Amos has finally found the perfect balance between her inner voice and artistry with her craving for mainstream success. While conservative fans of hers may refuse to accept her mellowing and sneer at this CD as Ms Amos’s attempt to snatch some of Jewel’s suburban fans, I personally find this CD her musically and lyrically strongest effort in a long time now with the added bonus of having repeat play value. Unlike her last few CDs, I have The Beekeeper playing on my CD player for a long time now. It’s been a long time since I do that to a Tori Amos CD so all I can say, with big relief, is, “Welcome back.”