... Always Was A Fruit Loop Girl

Props to Amos for keeping it surreal.

Tori Amos is still a freak — a good thing for her fans, who expect

nothing less.

The first disc of this double-album odyssey into freakitude consists

of 11 new songs, most of which possess the raw self-revelation, quirky

poetry, breathy singing and effortless piano-playing that have made

Amos a beloved peculiarity ever since the release of 1992's Little

Earthquakes.

The first single from the new album, the soaring "Bliss"

(RealAudio excerpt),

has lyrics that come across as slightly

shocking, perhaps because of the confessional tone of the opening

line — "Father, I killed my monkey" — and sentiments like

"Is that what I taste/ your supernova juice/ you know it's true I'm

part of you." As longtime fans know, whenever you start to suspect that, underneath it all,

Amos is really just a defenseless little thing, she lands the sucker punch:

"I believe in peace, bitch" ("Waitress," a song from 1994's Under The Pink that is reprised

here on disc two).

Amos has somehow managed to make self-absorption appear charming, most of the

time anyway (occasionally her stuff can turn cloying). Usually, though, she's

able to spin her navel-gazings into something more interesting. How? By

sweetly and vulnerably divulging her feelings in one breath and spitting out

self-protective toughness in the next: "So you can make me come/ that doesn't

make you Jesus" ("Precious Things").

And then there are some songs that are pure whimsy. In the psychedelia-tinged

"Glory of the 80's" there is this: "Silicone party Barbies to the left, and

Joan of Arcs to the right." "Riot Poof" begins with Amos' voice so distorted

that she sounds like a baby trying to talk

around a pacifier and not succeeding. When her voice comes through clear and

crisp at last, it's only to enunciate: "The sun is warming/ My man is

moistening." Now there's an image you don't come across every day.

The album ends with the achingly melancholic "1000 Oceans"

(RealAudio excerpt). Stripped of

everything but the girl and those pesky bare emotions of hers, there is this:

"I'm aware what the rules are, but you know that I will run. You know that I

will follow you." Ouch. Disc two — "Venus Live, Still Orbiting" — is

a live album made up of 13 tracks from Tori's 1998 "Plugged" tour. Certainly

there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth from those who don't find

their favorites included, but the ebullient version of "Cornflake Girl" (RealAudio excerpt) alone

is worth the price of the album. I mean, come on: "Never was a cornflake girl/

Thought that was a good solution/ Hanging with the raisin girls." Who else

could pull off that line? Freak. You just gotta love her.