For years I've read about how Tori has been inspired by great rock bands of the 1960s and '70s (The Doors, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, etc.) and upon listening to AMERICAN DOLL POSSE in its entirety, I feel that she has finally let loose and really jammed with her talented bassist Jon Evans, drummer Matt Chamberlin, and guitarist Mac Aladdin on this long-overdue sonically heavy album. After all, it was her adoration of this music at such an early age that got her kicked out of the Peabody Conservatory, so it's good to hear her music being so directly influenced by it. She began hinting at her rock-tinged roots with some of 1998's FROM THE CHOIRGIRL HOTEL, even more so with 1999's TO VENUS AND BACK, and to some extent with 2001's covers album STRANGE LITTLE GIRLS, but she clearly had no inhibitions making this glam rock/rock opera-esque album which, as music reviewer Matt Mazur stated, plays out similarly to ZIGGY STARDUST and HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH. Consequently, I couldn't agree with him more.
POSSE is clearly Tori's most politically-themed album to date and I think she handles it with the right amount of subtlety without being too preachy. For as political as "Dark Side of the Sun" is, it's an amazingly beautiful song that nearly brings me to tears each time I hear it. I think that if an artist is going to release political music, it needs to be supported in some respect. Tori doesn't just wail "impeach Bush" she makes sharp observations such as "you have the whole nation on all fours," "you say you're not bothered to lie beneath pigs, then go on Laura, here's a flower for your grave" and offers some solutions, "I'll save you from that Sunday sermon, Boy I think you need a conversion." Her pain and sadness over an unjustified war is unmistakably evident. She's also clearly not a "W" fan yet she's passionate enough about her position to back it up, and herein lies the secret of the album's success: she's passionate about it. While I've liked her recent work (most of 2002's SCARLET'S WALK and about half of 2005's THE BEEKEEPER) the problem with those works is that they weren't always cohesive (possibly due to them being too long) and she didn't seem overly passionate about all aspects of them.
POSSE isn't just glam rock and political statements, which will surely appeal to the many Tori fans who worship her first (two) album(s). POSSE includes some "old-school" Tori sounds that are some of her most beautiful songs to date. The sonically subdued but vocally rich "Father's Son" could easily reside with the girls from 1994's UNDER THE PINK and a less percussion-intensive "Beauty of Speed" could pass as an alumnae from 1992's LITTLE EARTHQUAKES. The album also offers beautiful, emotion-filled songs from a contemporary Tori, which is important because all artists must evolve. "Roosterspur Bridge" and "Almost Rosey" are such tracks that remind us our piano goddess is still creating.
Despite how much I enjoy the "classic" tracks, I feel they are overshadowed by the real gems of the album, the rougher tracks such as "Teenage Hustling," "Code Red," the initial single "Big Wheel," and my already-favorite "Body and Soul". These songs are so full of energy and emotion, and they demonstrate how multifaceted Tori continues to be, while drawing from the musical inspiration that is at the core of her being. Another strong point for POSSE is that the songs are quite diverse, yet they compliment each other very well, the softer tracks balancing the harder tracks balancing even the pop, radio-friendly tracks such as "Bouncing off Clouds" and "Secret Spell." I hope fans of Tori's early works listen to and appreciate POSSE for the sonic menagerie that it is, but there will no doubt be people who don't think the POSSE lyrics are esoteric enough and that the overall tone of the album isn't EARTHQUAKES enough. Time will tell how well this album bodes with both the EWF and non-EWF crowd, but I think Tori has managed to do what she hasn't done in a long time: create a solid and musically satisfying album (even if it's 23-tracks long) that she's passionate about while continuously evolving musically and clearly re-creating herself.