Not every pop album consists of twenty songs performed by five different characters created by the same singer, but then not every pop singer is Tori Amos. American Doll Posse, her ninth, is an ambitious, complex, and surprisingly fun album concerned with Amos’s usual themes of modern womanhood and sexuality, this time layered with an overt political angle. Opener “Yo George” fires a few shots across the president’s prow, and regardless of your political views, the audaciousness of the statement deserves a little respect. The fun continues with the second track, “Big Wheel,” which was pulled from radio airplay because of the repeated use of a certain acronym for an attractive mother.
Amos maintains this energy throughout the album, using her distinct voice and prodigious keyboard talents to craft songs that sound like everything from electronica to Tin Pan Alley pop. “Mr. Bad Man” and “Almost Rosey” are more familiar, constructed along on the strength of a simple piano line. “Bouncing off Clouds” and “Digital Ghosts” sound more modern, with layers of noise, synthesizers and drum machines creating more layered musical landscapes. “Dragon,” the final track, pushes the use of electronics further; noise pulses at the beginning create a disorienting effect that Amos maintains lyrically throughout the rest of the song. She moves effortlessly through these musical genres, relying on her different “dolls” to blend influences that otherwise would have seemed unfocused.
The one constant on American Doll Posse is the quality of the instrumentation and songwriting. When an iconoclastic and sometimes indulgent artist like Amos produces a concept album incorporating politics, sexuality, and multiple personas, the result could be a quagmire of disastrous proportions. To her credit, the concept of the album never overwhelms the songs that constitute it. Unlike some of Amos’s earlier work, the album doesn’t need to be deconstructed to be appreciated, but closer listening does bring out the subtle richness of her full artistic statement. American Doll Posse is an achievement, an album that Amos fanatics can obsess over and the casual listener can easily enjoy.