If one searches for reviews for Tori Amos’ latest release, Unrepentant Geraldines, one will find almost universal praise. Most of them, if not all, mention how this is the Tori Amos they know and love. The “baroque-pop” Tori with just her and her piano. One review mentions that this is her best album in 20 years. To put this in perspective of Amos’ career, her second album (third if counting Y Kant Tori Read) Under the Pink was released 20 years ago in 1994.
This particular reviewer grew up with Boys for Pele and only “discovered” Under the Pink in college, where there was less teenage angst and darkness. And as harsh as it might sound that this album is just as good as her early ones, almost dismissing everything Amos’ created since, there is a strong sense of truth to it.
Unrepentant Geraldines is not the cryptic dark album that Boys for Pele is, nor is it an album with grand sweeping feelings like Little Earthquakes. It seems like a sister to From the Choirgirl Hotel, although instead of a mourning Tori, we have a celebratory Tori. It is however, like another review mentioned, a direct successor to Under the Pink. In fact the lead single, “Trouble’s Lament,” is reminiscent of “Cornflake Girl,” in both style and feel.
With Unrepentant Geraldines however we have a grown up Tori singing love letters to her younger self as well as advice to her daughter. But this isn’t just a mom singing to her daughter, it’s a woman singing to women, showing that she knows what it’s like to suffer in the world, and how it’s okay but to rise above it.
“Rose Dover” and “16 Shades of Blue” both deal with the idea that when you grow up, you’re too old to act like a child. The former explicitly says this, while the latter talks about how women are always seen as “too old” for anything. There are mentions of being “too old” to do something because she’s 15 and should have started at three, as well as, being 33 and employers worrying her “clock is ticking.” This song stands out from the rest of the album due to the use of added sound effects punctuating the song. There are ticking clocks and kazoos at various times. This doesn’t feel like a song Tori Amos would produce, but one that Imogen Heap would. “Rose Dover” explicitly states that growing up doesn’t mean losing your childhood curiosity. Being an adult doesn’t mean you have lose something you had when you were a child.
“Promise” is the song that solidifies the “woman solidarity” theme. As a duet with Amos and her daughter, we have a mother and a daughter promising each other that they will be there, no matter what happens. Nothing can break that bond. Amos’ daughter has a lower range than she does and their voices mesh wonderfully. The way the song is set up, they each finish each others lines, which gets annoying quite quickly. As well crafted as the song is, it almost seems too over the top; too “look at our fantastic storybook relationship” that makes the song hard to listen repeatedly.
The other songs on the album are as much as one can expect from a Tori Amos album: her voice and her piano. As Amos get older, she gets more explicit and less cryptic: “Giant’s Rolling Pin” is a tale about how the narrator is on a quest to solve the problem of NSA spying (Very American Doll Posse). You also have the requisite ballads with “Wild Way” and “Invisible Boy;” wandering songs that feel only vaguely attached to the rest of the songs.
Amos herself has said that certain works of arts have influenced this album, however, with the exception of referencing the names of the works in the song titles, the visual image is lost. Nothing on the album reminds the listener of a painting; the music is too dynamic. These songs have movement more suited to a film.