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Musings On Anger, Metal, and Tori Amos

 Photo Daniel Levitt
Photo Daniel Levitt

I am professing my love for Tori Amos.

I mean, she can play two pianos at the same time and she does this thing where her trademark Bosendorfer, and usually a keyboard, are situated parallel to each other with Amos in the middle. Sometimes she will play one, sometimes the other, but will mostly straddle the bench and play them both at the same time. I saw her live in Cleveland, OH in 2002, and I remember thinking how very calm she made the audience feel when performing songs that are really really heavy…. I.e “Me and a Gun”. That’s Amos’s superpower and she wields it with grace.

And… she can play the shit out of those pianos.

Tori Amos has the sauce, I was a late comer to Tori Amos. It may sound sacreligious, but Scarlet’s Walk was the record that pointed me in her direction. I was going through a really bad breakup and that record got me through some of the lowest lows.

And then the anger hit, and then I listened to Little Earthquakes, and felt a whole new level of pissed.. One that wasn’t screaming into a black abyss, but one that pinpointed lasers at an open wound and exploited it, chilling and stealth-like. I felt, and feel, powerful when listening to that record, as if impervious to the world, because I am so focused on the world that Amos has built within the confines of the record.

I think about her witty and biting lyrics. I think about her first single, “Crucify”, and I think about “every finger in the room is pointing at me”. And “looking for saviours in dirty sheets”. I think about the underrated and chilly, winter, beauty of “Silent All Those Years”, and “Precious Things”, and “Winter”, and I think of “So you can make me cum doesn’t make you Jesus”, and “Things are gonna change so fast”. That last one serving as a chorus and is, belted frequently to the windshield sometimes with tears, sometimes with smiles.

I think about how Amos was the daughter of a preacher man and wrote songs like “God” with her snapping through grinding teeth, “God sometimes you just don’t come through”. I think about the tenor and tremolo in her voice and how “1000 Oceans” makes me tear up at the first chords of the song.

I dated a girl whose alarm clock played “Jackie’s Strength” and how her moms name was Jackie and how her mom was dealing with a debilitating sickness at the time we were dating. I think about that song, and that sickness, and how it couldn’t be a coincidence.

I heard somwhere that Amos received a full scholarship to the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University at age 5 but was expelled at age 11 for musical insubordination.. Whatever the fuck that means, but it’s metal as fuck.

Not to mention that Amos was really good friends with Trent Reznor, even citing Nine Inch Nails on “Precious Things”. She sang a beautiful live rendition of “Muhammed My Friend” with a muted Maynard James Keenan showcasing the Tool frontman’s chilly, poignant voice. Amos also covered “Smells Like Teen Spirit” when it was still new and fresh, and Seattle was still a town no one ever visited.

Amos also has quite possibly recorded my favorite cover song ever with Lloyd Cole’s “Rattlesnakes” from her covers record Strange Little Girls. A sincerely diminished version of the underrated original. She takes it and owns it, and, no offense to Mr. Cole, it now belong to Tori Amos.

So… there you go, listen to Little Earthquakes, it’ll give you way more ammunition than Reigning Blood, or And Justice For All. Which are tremendous records in their own right. But if you’re sick of screaming and want to shine a laser at someone’s crotch and watch it burn slowly, Tori Amos has got that covered.

  • Brian Furman

For more on Tori Amos check out:

https://toriamos.com/

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