Album Reviews

Tori Amos – Abnormally Attracted To Sin

(Island) UK release date: 18 May 2009

Ten albums into her career and Tori’s back, signed to new label Island Records. Returning with a surprisingly straightforward – if long – collection of music, Abnormally Attracted To Sin marks a departure from the concept albums that have dominated her recent output.

It’s a testament to her talent that she’s still able to come up with melodic hooks that draw the listener in. Yet it feels like she’s written quite a lot of these songs before. Much of the music is good but not really very interesting; there’s not a huge amount of innovation on offer.

Contrasted with her dalliances with various ideas and concepts in the past, Abnormally Attracted To Sin is a relatively predictable album and Tori doesn’t really test any new musical waters (except perhaps on the soft jazz leanings of Lady In Blue). Perhaps as a result it’s not as challenging as some of her previous work, almost a bit safe. And due to the sheer number of them, it’s inevitable that some of the more average tracks dilute the quality of the album as a whole.

Having said that, Tori always had a talent for a simple but powerful ballad. And she conjures up a few more here. Maybe California is a clear stand-out track. Sung by one mother to another standing on a cliff about to commit suicide it is the track that most directly targets the “sin” theme brought up in the album’s title. Along with the likes of Flavor and the synthesised birdsong on Starling, there are some lovely quieter moments here.

Touches of drama are also scattered about. Curtain Call is reminiscent of Precious Things, while That Guy feels like it belongs on a West End stage. Lead single Welcome To England is an enjoyable romp through Tori’s own back catalogue, as she seems to meld various snippets of her material together to make a new song that’s both familiar and new.

But, as has happened before, Tori’s over-generosity is her weakness. Why does she harvest so much material? Perhaps she just can’t stop herself from writing and writing and producing and producing, and once the music’s been made, she wants to pass it on. Perhaps each album is regarded as a pure work of art that can’t be tampered with or compromised.

It might be facetious to suggest that she should have simply cast aside a heap of the tracks, but frankly it would’ve helped. And on this album, some of the mid-tempo ones seem to be the stinkers – the likes of Not Dying Today, Police Me and 500 Miles all seem like so much surplus.

In fact, bearing in mind that there’s no, or at least not an obvious, narrative throughout the album, this might have been a good one for experimenting with editing a bit more. As it is, by the time you get 12 twelve tracks in, it becomes very hard to process what’s come before and even harder to process how much is still left.

Abnormally Attracted To Sin turns out to be a collection of tracks that simply doesn’t work as a whole because it can’t properly be listened to in one go. Pity, for somewhere in amongst it all Tori proves that she’s still capable of producing a storming album.

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