The 1990s might have been the Corporate Jim decade where the record companies had an unbelievable stranglehold on the music during that time. Girl Power was running riot and being ruthlessly exploited commercially spreading the message to the masses, Britpop likewise was being such a manipulative sonofabitch. Apologies ladies and gentleman if you're big Oasis fans out there, but they had more ego than musical gift in their heads. Outside of the UK however, and even in the midst of the Grunge era, there were the emergence of a number of quirk filled acts. I remember singing Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm with The Cranberries singing a spectrum of moods in Zombie and Dreams, while Billy Corgan accompanied by the excellent outfit The Smashing Pumpkins was pouring his heart out in a confined rage with Disarm and Rhinoceros. And then there's Nine Inch Nails fronted by Trent Reznor, who is universally recognised as being one of the most important musicians in the last twenty years.
I had to mention Mr. Reznor at least once, as The Editor, with the enthusiasm of Honey Monster wanting me to tell about the honey, has been gauding me to mention his contribution in this album. Under The Pink, her second release, is virtually of all Tori Amos' own work. We have reviewed one of her more recent works in The Night Hunter, and The Editor didn't like it very much. He thought it far too lengthy and boring and I will admit the album is exactly that, but it's not one you can get away with listening to just the once. You do need a lot of time for it though I will concede it does make for a very heavy read. Classical is perhaps not one of her stronger fortes.
Back then, I found very enchanting a couple of songs in Cornflake Girl and God. Almost subtle but at the same time a sharp elbow in the stomach, but I liked them, all before her follow up Boys For Pele became less of that and a lot more in-your-face. As I said before, I liked God, there's a lot of musical input in this, the overlaying harmonies, her famous piano leads take a rare backseat and this is probably one of her rockier numbers. Thankfully, it returns to the foray with Pretty Good Year, it's evocative and sometimes a little edgy with help from some strings, but surely Under The Pink's not going to get too sweetened from here?
Cloud On My Tongue is a stripped to keys and strings arrangement and Miss Amos has an uncanny knack of turning a hook into an addictive listening piece, while there's some unusual bassline and a wah wah pedal running through the verses from Steve Caton in Space Dog. Very intriguing but the chorus and bridge structure are two completely different parallels and they shouldn't work yet remarkably they do. Maybe at last there's a chance to chill out with Icicle and perhaps limited instrumentation while we can listen to some sharp words. I guess at this point I couldn't avoid it, but Trent Reznor finally makes his mark on backup vocals in Past The Mission, but the male accompaniment is purposefully low key as the song charts of a woman overcoming sexual violence. Likewise as is Baker Baker, the lyrical content is almost suggestive and smacks of almost pure irony.
Of course, there's the mandolin enriched and unashamedly piano led Cornflake Girl, however the lyrics aren't much of a giveaway. According to Tori, it deals with female genital mutilation, something I fear is still prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the traumas involved in it that leaves our Pianista feeling outraged overall. Previously, the only clues I could get from it is when "things are getting kinda gross" and certainly seems that way with The Waitress, it's a return to some sharp wit and spiky guitar. It's also proof you can provide a lot of punch without having to physically scream your message across.
So much discretion in Under The Pink and yet so much contained angst in this that I do get the compulsion of listening to more of Tori Amos where I can. It's so easy to dish out top marks where you might think the credit's due, but to couple together some confident riffs together with an album full of lyrical edge is just inspiring in itself. It's proof that some good audio nourishing material were worthy of their accolades in the Nineties.
10 out of ten. This is proof there is a God.
Listen to Under The Pink here on Deezer
Buy the album here on Amazon
Tori Amos Official Website here