THE singular mind of Tori Amos actually consists of many parts. On her ninth studio album, the singer-songwriter gives voice (and name and affect) to some of them, aiming to inspire all women to reclaim their whole selves rather than be limited to the roles (wife, mother, sexpot, etc.) that patriarchy has imposed for, well, forever. On "American Doll Posse," the eccentric pop artist embodies, complete with costumes, a band whose members — Isabel, Clyde, Pip, Santa and, duh, Tori — each represent aspects of the feminine as well as various Greek goddesses. It's a radical and grandiose concept (perhaps explaining the epic 20 tracks on this 67-minute collection). It also recalls her 2001 covers album, "Strange Little Girls," on which Amos manifested the female viewpoints she found in each selection with a dozen Cindy Sherman-esque photos in different guises.
A one-woman quintet: Does the idea sound kind of — crazy? "American Doll Posse" is by turns lush, raunchy, rollicking and absurd. Despite the personalities on parade, however, you can't really tell the players without the program. Whether it's Isabel's protests (the Bush-berating piano anthem "Yo George"), Pip's combative strutting ("Teenage Hustling"), Clyde's vulnerability ("Girl Disappearing") or Santa's sauciness ("You Can Bring Your Dog"), it's all Amos.
The songs reflect Amos' own journey from angry preacher's daughter to unabashed artist, building on previous accomplishments while following her mysterious muse. The short, seething "Fat Slut," surprisingly raw in its loathing, harks back to her earliest, most enraged tunes, while "Body and Soul" rolls out an anti-religious juggernaut. "Father's Son" is a deceptively floaty ballad with a tense undertow, but the propulsive, baroque "Bouncing Off Clouds" demands a soaring dance remix.
"ADP" is often fun but sometimes overwrought, and non-fans may find it too much. But, as always, Amos addresses heavy themes with a combination of sweeping mythology and sometimes savage humor. Maybe it takes seemingly crazy ideas to match the insanity of these times, when female "empowerment" (usually involving subduing men with your sexiness) only reinforces the restrictions imposed by government, law, society and the media. For all the layers of conceit here, her point is direct. And very well taken.
— Natalie Nichols