Alternative Rock, 1999
To Venus and Back is actually two-CD boxed set from Tori Amos. The first CD is titled Venus Orbiting which has eleven new studio tracks. Venus Live. Still Orbiting is a live album recorded during the Plugged Tour of ’98, and it has ten album tracks and three rare tracks performed live.
A cursory listen to Venus Orbiting reveals that the Girl With the Piano may as well be a fond memory: on almost half the tracks here, the piano doesn’t figure. I would by lying if I say I don’t miss the old angry Tori Amos, but I also appreciate the fact that five piano-tinkling angry music albums may as well be pushing it too far. We can’t spend our lives wallowing in misery, can we?
Bliss. This is a rollicking, amazing song with a heart-pounding chorus. This is a back-to-basics heavy dance track, with Tori banging on the piano hard in the chorus. I love this track, a confusing mess of a tune about everything from Electra Complex to sawing at the darned parent-children umbilical cord. Brilliant.
Juarez sounds a little too muck like Cruel for comfort, the techno beats getting monotonous after a while. I have no idea what she is singing about, an increasingly frequent occurence with her newer music.
Concertina. One of my favorites, a haunting ballad about possibly everything (stage fright, adoration, tequila?). The music has an ethereal out-of-this-world-and-into-space feel to it, and listening to it loud in the early hours of the morning is akin to being enveloped in a soothing black aura of utter bliss and absolute peace.
Glory of the ’80s is definitely the most polished, slinkiest, and funniest song of the bunch as Tori Amos reveals a mischievous side in her. She gets sucked back to the 80’s, she sings, and attends a wild party of sex and drugs and rock-n-roll. This song captures the hedonistic feeling of being young and immortal, and there’s a rib-tickling and absolutely inspired line where she wants to be cloned like Kim Carnes.
Lust is a haunting ballad that, unfortunately, comes after Concertina and gets buried in the latter’s shadow. She manages to evoke the confusion of tumultuous passions using the vaguest, most confusing wordings ever.
Suede is tad monotonous and the unrelenting drum machine can drive me numb.
Josephine. Napoleon, upon the eve of the siege of Seine, couldn’t sing this better. Yes, the Josephine in question is the Mrs Bonaparte, and this song is sung from Napoleon’s point of view. This track is a mesmerizing if brief evocation of the agony of loneliness, alienation, and one’s mortality. It is heartbreaking to listen to.
Riot Poof. Great swinging track, but it doesn’t stand out, thanks to its rather samey-numbing dance machine. Really, Tori Amos should find a new rhythm arrangement on that drum machine-synthesizer-band of hers.
Datura. Self-indulgence at its ugliest. Backed by a wailing dance track, she lists phrases unrelated and without any order. Brilliant? Not to me. And a very long repetition of “Dividing Canaan!” towards the end is not only irritating, it smacks of self-pretentiousness carried overboard.
Spring Haze. Doesn’t stick to my mind, this somewhat listenable track. Memo to Tori Amos: new beats, please.
10,000 Oceans. A gentle show-end ballad, this disappointingly no-nonsense ballad has Ms Amos crying for her lost love. It’s nice, and it’s also easily the most mainstream tune she has come up with so far,
Listening to the other CD, Venus Live. Still Orbiting, makes me so disappointed that Tori Amos has never come over my neighborhood for a concert. She’s a consummate performer, and it shows: the supposedly familiar tracks are entirely a different incarnation. The “new” Precious Things is definitely the best, for I love the upbeat instruments that add color to the whole violently turbulent track. Sugar sounds a lot like Bliss, but Cooling is beautiful. Tori Amos, get over here and throw a concert. NOW.