The problem with the United States' reaction to Sept. 11 is that we don't want to look at the big picture.
While the same obvious signs of vacuous social attitude exist as before the attacks, pop culture and the media would have us believe that we are a changed people -- that terrorism and Bruce Springsteen's increased relevance have cleansed us as a nation and have made us see the error of our ways.
But Tori Amos knows differently.
Her new album, Scarlet's Walk, doesn't so much examine the terrorist attacks as it indicts our nation for its historical wrongs and conceits in light of 9/11.
Porn stars, racism, homophobia, al-Qaida and repercussions of the Trail of Tears and the Civil War all hold equal weight in Amos' America.
But as is the norm with any of her works, listeners get heaping spoonfuls of the songwriter's own peculiar interpretation of events.
Thematically, the album is Amos' most brilliant to date.
It builds on the challenges and characters she met on her national tour after Sept. 11, following autobiographical character Scarlet on her journey through all 50 states.
In each region, Amos offers examples of that area's culture and characters with interjections of her own commentary.
But musically, Scarlet's Walk is the first album in her career that doesn't break any new ground. Throughout, she plays to her strengths -- the melodic Kate Bush-isms that marked her first two albums and the lyrical quirks of Boys for Pele.
Although this makes for a solid album, one can't help but miss the chances she's taken on her last few albums.
The completely unexpected dance beats of "Raspberry Swirl" lit up 1998's masterful From the Choirgirl Hotel, and the eerie ambience of "Suede" was the highlight of To Venus and Back.
But the album does provide several career highlights for Amos.
Its first single, the floating,
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