here's a review of every track on the beekeeper by molly knight.
This track gets the album off to a good start, with Tori opening The Beekeeper repeating “when I come to terms with this” five times before adding “my world will change for me.” Back are the Bosendorfer and the B3 Hammond organ. The melody is very reminiscent of Amber Waves, but the organ makes it much more compelling. "Parasol" is pretty straightforward, no real interesting beats or arrangements. For my money, this should have been the first single in that it's accessible, and won't necessarily piss everyone in the Tori Amos fan universe off.
“Sweet the Sting”
…is certainly a standout track. The London Community Gospel Choir provides the same kind of rich canvas that gives so much flavor to “Way Down.” This song begs to be played under an August moon on the porch of a Southern plantation. It's sweaty and sexy and very reminiscent of “Bachelorette”-but more developed, and delectably played on the organ. Knowledgeable Tori fans will recognize the “Shake Shake Shake Me Sane” lyric as a cheeky reference to Cruel's “Shock Shock Shock Me Sane.” Or maybe I'm on crack. Regardless, the “cause I'm inching ever closer to the tip of this scorpion's tail” line makes me a little giggly.
“The Power of Orange Knickers”
….is a track that's already garnered a lot of attention due to Damien Rice's contribution. The beginning is a bit jarring as Tori sings “The power of orange knickers” in a sort of robotic, almost possessed voice. She repeats the line two more times, with Rice singing along. Rice makes the same kind of contribution Trent Reznor makes on Past the Mission; he never sings a line without her, and really, it might as well be anyone. (But having a duet with D-Rice is cool, it's timely, and it certainly won't hurt album sales). It's a seemingly simple song on the Bosendorfer- adult contemporary sounding- that's intrigue lies in its lyrics. Tori describes a cast of “terrorists,” including “those girls that smile kindly then rip your life to pieces,” “that little pill in my hand that keeps the pain laughing,” and being alone in a kiss. It is important to point out that The Beekeeper features some of the most straightforward lyrics Tori has written since Y Kant Tori Read. The once obtuse Amos is experimenting with spelling things out. More on this later.
…Is similar to “Orange Knickers” in that it's just Tori and the Bosendorfer and sounds like a lost track from Scarlet's Walk- a little bit of Taxi Ride with a splash of Sweet Sangria. Again, the lyrics bring the intrigue. The chorus is defined by the line “the sexiest thing is trust/I wake up to find pirates have come.” And honestly, pirates NEVER go out of style.
“Barons of Suburbia”
Once again we learn to never judge a book by its cover, as this track is, hands-down, the shining gem of the album. (Hammond Organ and Bosey once again). The first time I played The Beekeeper it took me about an hour to get passed this song. There has been a lot of negativity surrounding this record since “Sleeps with Butterflies” leaked on the Internet. I maintained that if just ONE song sounded like it was cut from the same mold as Virginia, Tombigbee, and Carbon, I would be satisfied. Well folks, “Barons of Suburbia” far exceeds any and all hopes I had for a killer song. The song's meter is as intricate as "Carbon's" “stop-and-start” motif. The melody is gorgeous, and the Desperate Housewife-esque theme of the lyrics is appropriate, and more importantly, believable. You don't get the sense that Tori is stretching for material here, writing about something that happened to someone else. “But baby I would let your darkness invade me” is something I think I've heard Tori say in interviews about 89053489504 times. But here's the best part: “Barons” could end at four minutes and still be the best track on the album, but it keeps going. It goes to places Tori Amos has only gone in concert-and never before on an album. Finally, she channels the hypnotic, raw, climaxes she's added to the ends of so many crowd favorites (“Pro Widow,” “Crucify, “Take to the Sky”) into her studio work. She repeats “I'm piecing a potion to combat your poison” eight times, each time louder, more visceral so that by the time she screams out the concluding “SHE IS RISEN, YES BOYS, SHE IS RISEN!” you can literally here the saliva gurgling in her snarling throat. Not to mention, it's undoubtedly an ultra-clever dig at the Christian patriarchy, and completes the “Past the Mission,” “Mrs. Jesus” trilogy. This performance is why I saw Amos 50 times on her last tour- and I realize that people who have never seen her live miss the best thing about her music. When belting a line over and over transcends “just screaming” and becomes a hypnotic, soul-shaking moment, time stops. Think Pancake “Ohio” bridge. Think Waitress 98. I'm definitely worried this song will lose something without the band (much like "Carbon" did) but even solo I think it would sound just fine.
”Sleeps with Butterflies”
I don't know whether it's placement as “Barons'” follow-up makes this song more excruciating or more tolerable. Honestly, it acts as the refractory period after a really, really good shag- which is annoying yet inarguably necessary. Oh, and the version that leaked is NOT a clip. It's the full, un-edited version. Sorry kids, no New Mexico to look forward to.
Group this one in the same minivan as "Jamaica Inn." It's the most political song on the record, as General Joy is the name of a person. The refrain evokes "Another Girl's Paradise." It would be GJ. Bosey and Hammond once again, pretty, safe etc.
Can also be thrown in that minivan, except it notably features the choir again. I'm pretty sure that this song deals with Tori's relationship with her husband post-motherhood-but once again, I could be on crack. I think people are going to be bored with this song. It's very slow.
Is a very sweet, very personal song about her daughter growing up. (just bosendorfer) It sounds like the last three songs, but it feels much more emotional. In a way, "Baker Baker"-ish. Very, very tender lyrics: “There will be time to chase the sun with ribbons undone..Yes my little pony is growing up fast. She corrects me and says 'you mean a thoroughbred.” A look in the eye says the Battle's beginning. From school she comes home and cries “I don't want to grow up Mom-at least not tonight.” I can't imagine Tori playing with this and not crying. I can't imagine hearing the "My Little Pony" line and not giggling.(I f-ing love that horse!) Lots of “Hey Jupiter-like” oooooohs at the end. Also, Tori's (niece?) provides backing vocals, and sounds EERILY like Tori. While too sad for me to really, really enjoy, this is the kind of song every movie producer wants to use in his/her “coming of age” movie. Undeniably sweet.
”Cars and Guitars”
Has already been leaked so I won't give a thorough description. I must say that it's positioning on the album pleasantly breaks up the adult-contemporary feel, and takes the record into really un-charted territory for Tori. More on that later.
Is quite possibly Tori's most shagadelic song ever. It's got a 70's porn-funk groove, and a “come on come on come on” refrain. I imagine she will get up and do her little dance/grind during this part. It segues from a slow, sexy groove into a tongue-twisting “soinyourfurnacethenoudrankmyt endernessfeldsparandmicathenyo uthoughtthatyouwouldownmytempl eofgold” refrain. Jon Evans must really love this song. The bass is incendiary. The choir and the organ are banging. “Thought I had a witnessssssss (come on come on come on) to this criiiime.”
Purists you can stop you're bitching: this one's just Tori and the piano, “There was a garden in the beginning. Before the fall. Before Genesis. There was a tree there. A tree of knowledge. Sophia would insist you must eat this." The song's clearly about the garden of Eden. (Duh). And it weighs in at 2 minutes flat. The chorus “Original Sin- I don't Think So” sounds very much like an improv. Cute, light, and over before you know it.
Opening line? “Driving in my Saab, on my way to Ireland.” Hold your snickering! It's actually a pleasant little throw-back song; a doo-wop, complete with a “sha na na na” refrain. Very sing-songy. If it weren't so Tori specific, I could imagine it being covered by some band at a festival in the middle-of-nowhere in a few decades. And this brings me back to my point about the lyrics being so literal, so specifically literal. Does Tori drive a Saab? Check. Does Tori have a home in Ireland? Check. Critics will pan the snot out of this song, but I'm way too amused to do anything but sing along.
Very very slow song that scares the shit out of me. Have you heard the Postal Service? Have you heard Depeche Mode? Do you like scary movies? Have you ridden on Space Mountain? This song sounds eerily like “Suede,” (on the Hammond organ, no less and matt chamberlain sounds like a dying drum machine). And even more eerie: the chorus has lyrics that are over-dubbed much like “Spark.” The lyrics? “Wrap yourself around the Tree of Life and Dance the Infinity of the Hive- take this message to Michael.” I imagine she was able to go back and add these vocals after the tragic passing of her brother a few months ago. When I first realized what she was saying, I got a little choked-up. Additionally, "Beekeeper" manages to have the same tribal feel of “Scarlet's Walk.” It might be the most experimental song she's ever done. Might be in the same key as the “Hey they found a body” bridge of “Past the Mission”- but I'm no music major. I don't think she can pull it off solo. But who knows?
Martha's Foolish Ginger
Bosendorfer and the band. Belongs in the minivan with the others from earlier. Soft. Ballad-y. Vocally pretty high. Key line: “How could I forget what you said-the part about that 'Love taking over your life' was not your plan."
Fuck Yes! Bluesy, Jazzy. The best improv she's ever done. Sounds like a response to the Eagles “Witchy Woman,” in all honesty. These lyrics are going to rival “so you can make me cum that doesn't make you jesus” as the female gender's favorite line to stand up and applaud. The second verse? “He's cheating on me with a Hoochie Woman…. Keep your hoochie/ you can keep the house/ and the bank accounts/ 'cause boys I bring home the Bacon.” I seriously doubt we're even going to able to hear the rest of the song because the cheering is going to be so loud. Which is a shame because the final verse is: “He called me up and said “she has needs” I said “You'll find them on Barney's fourth floor.” See what I mean about literal lyrics?
The new “Tear In Your Hand” complete with the “yadadadaie..” Totally “we're on the verge of breaking up/or maybe you just left me” song, and I can even hear a guitar! I think people are really going to like this one, you know: “There you go again breaking porcelain like a bull in a china shop.” And a shout out to one of my favorite Tori lines “Am I just the horizon you run to...” (from “Here In My Head”) with “I am just the doll you got used to.”) The male character in this song is “Mars,” so go ahead and analyze away, you astrologists.
”Marys of the Sea
Probably the second best song on the album (for my money) after “Barons.” Reminiscent of "Mrs. Jesus" and "Josephine" (with it's historical implications), but fuller sounding. “Les Saint Marie de la Mer/ You will dance the ring/ Marys of the Sea/ the lost bride weeps……Hey there's a new Jerusalem.” She also mentions two Scarlet Women and Black Madonna. Piano is very complicated. Drums bongo-ish. Stops and starts. Lyrically dense.
…as in champagne, not wheat. So the new “Gold Dust.” Very. Very slow. Very, very sad. Mr. Bojangles makes an appearance. Shout-out to landslide. Last lyric of the album “I thought I'd see you again. You said you might do. Maybe in a carving. Maybe in a cathedral somewhere in Barcelona.”
My initial thoughts on the album? It's her most ambitious work to date. It barrels through so many genres it's generally un-classifiable. We're talking blues, gospel, funk, slit-your-wrists ballads, kickass textbook tori awkward arrangements that somehow work, adult contemporary elevator fodder, creepy Depeche Mode-y title track etc. Thematically it's also as diverse. We're working with motherhood, being a wife after motherhood, penis envy, recovering christianhood, the obligatory historical figures etc. Most surprisingly is the recurring theme of “another woman” or “another man-” this album reeks of infidelity, disappointment, settling, disillusionment etc. I can't help but wonder if she's writing from her own experiences or if she's writing about stuff that's happened to other people. I don't begrudge any writer/performer etc. to create characters-and I'm often frustrated with how audiences assume that a singer has lived everything he/she writes about. The only reason why I bring this up is to re-iterate that she might be at a point in her life where crazy stuff doesn't happen to her anymore-at least not on a daily basis. She's said Little Earthquakes is her diary, and I'm wondering if The Beekeeper isn't the antithesis to that. It's possible Tori embodies more characters in this effort than she approached in Scarlet, which is tiring and exhilarating all at once.
I love the first chapter of the album: “Parasol,” “Sweet the Sting,” “Jamaica Inn”, and “Barons of Suburbia”--with “Barons” getting my vote for “M.V.P.” I don't really care for the fact that the belly of the album is the adult contemporary section. If those six or so songs had been cut, this would be one of her best albums. Period. The last section is pretty solid, with "Mary's," "Pisces," "Hoochie," "Ireland," and "Sinsuality" all registering in the "keeper" column.
Also, this record is her most self-referential to date. So many lyrics evoke songs she's written in the past. Almost every
I reserve the right change my mind, as I've only listened to the album once. I wrote this on the fly, so I apologize for any blatant errors, un-forgivable omissions etc. These are just my first impressions, and hindsight is 20/20.
I do believe that there is something for everyone on this album. I also believe that because it is so schizophrenic, it will be utterly panned by critics.
I consider myself a lyrics girl, but at this point there is no way I can offer any sort of in-depth lyrical criticism. I contemplated studying the songs over the weekend, but I decided getting this up ASAP was more important. I feel a little bit bad dismissing some of these songs as "adult contemporary" because quite honestly they might be amazing lyrically. I mainly just reported on the music, because I didn't have the time to digest anything else. (But there are for sure, no naughty words at all on this record- no parental advisory sticker needed).
I will leave you with this: whether you like this album or not, it's gutsy. Tori Amos is really swinging for the fences here, and for that she should be commended. Sure, it's safe at times. But there are moments that will make you giggle, dance, shriek, gasp, and sing-along.
A lot of people just want to know, "Is it GOOD?! Is it better than "Scarlet's Walk?!" The answer is, "I don't know. Is "Little Earthquakes," better than "Choirgirl?" "Pink" better than "Earthquakes?" And more importantly, does my opinion matter? These are just my notes. Please disagree with me. Tell me to piss off, or tell me you got a kick out of reading it. But DO buy the album when it comes out.