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Friday, 21 September, 2001, 16:58 GMT 17:58 UK
Tori's Girls find new dimension
In character: Tori created 13 roles to sing the tracks
In character: Tori created 13 roles to sing the tracks
`By BBC News Online's Ian Youngs

Tori Amos has always been a powerful wrencher of emotion, and with Strange Little Girls she has turned her ability to wring every drop of feeling out of a song to other peoples' tunes.

It could be called a covers album, it could be called a concept album, it could be called a soundtrack to an unfilmed movie.

It definitely is a collection of 12 songs written by men that have been covered - or "reinterpreted" - by Amos.

She has created a different character to sing each of them - reciting lyrics about dumping a wife's dead body by Eminem, a man stringing a girl along by 10cc and the ideal of a "real man" by Joe Jackson.

Also given her theatrical treatment are tunes by Tom Waits, Neil Young, The Velvet Underground, The Beatles and Slayer.

Its theatrical, 3D elements make most music seem flat

The most striking, charged and chilling song is Amos's take on Eminem's 97 Bonnie and Clyde, which is a man talks to his small, wailing daughter as they drive mom to the lake.

She is in the car boot, dead, and the voice persuades the daughter to help tie a rock to her feet and push her off the pier.

"No more fightin' wit' dad, no more restraining order."

Amos is not the type of person to suffer Eminem or his alter ego Slim Shady gladly, and - with a haunting, whispering delivery - she tells the story like a macabre raconteur, not an unrepentant braggart.

Tori Amos
Out of character: Amos shows her originality
On first listen, many of the other songs do not come across as blow-me-away material, unlike some of the other covers she has done in her career.

Fans will remember the astounding versions of Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit, The Rolling Stones' Angie and Led Zeppelin's Thank You.

But on Strange Little Girls, the songs were chosen for their authors and subject matter as much as Amos's ability to turn them into things of aural beauty.

And the intention is clearly for the album to be taken as a package and listened to with an operatic reverence rather than with half an ear while it is played in the background.

New level

The fact that Amos has created 13 characters to sing the tunes (one is sung by twins) is another indication that they are supposed to be seen as stories and performances, not just songs.

She has even dressed as each of the characters and the photos appear on the CD booklet.

If you do not take all that into account, these are just average cover versions.

But if you do, you get access to another level of meaning and emotion and it becomes an astounding collection.

Not many artists could have opened the door to this dimension - its theatrical, 3D elements make most music seem flat by comparison.

Only a few people will want that, and understandably so - but Amos's originality will reward those with the patience and desire to make the effort.

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