Tori Amos

When Tori Amos does a concept album — and hers are all concept albums — she goes all-out, but seldom more so than on the 23-track blast of American Doll Posse. The obsessive laborer assumes five different female archetypes no one should have trouble identifying, but who are illustrated with Warholish photos aplenty on the sleeve nonetheless. Listeners can examine the symbolism and poetics of Amos's characters as much as their time and ability will allow without ever arriving at anything definitive. Amos is still a free thinker vigorously grappling with the entire scope of femininity, battling religious contradiction, cultural hypocrisy and social glaucoma. This time, though, she's also rocking like a woman possessed. Amos has always injected a sexual element into her music in interesting and controversial ways, and "Teenage Hustle," "You Can Bring Your Dog" and "Big Wheel" — with its panting chorus of "MILF, MILF, MILF" — have an erotic charge akin to Bessie Smith's or Aretha Franklin's. Posse's sequencing, mixing torrid rockers with artsier neo-Streisand material, is brilliant. The beats manage to capture both Eurotrash post-disco bump, as well as a wide swatch of AC/DC metallica, signaling this ain't your sophomore English teacher's pop music. The effect is like an infection Neosporin can't cure. — William Michael Smith

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William Michael Smith