A decade after the release of her most politically outspoken album, a reinvigorated Tori Amos once again takes aim at the state of the world on her 15th album, Native Invader. One of Amos' tightest and most digestible efforts, it's a standout in her late-era catalog, featuring instant classics like the epic "Reindeer King" and the surprising thrill "Up the Creek." Much like spiritual sisters American Doll Posse and Scarlet's Walk, Native Invader was influenced by political turmoil on American soil; this time, following the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. However, instead of directing her barbs at an obvious target like she did on "Yo George," she veers her attention toward nature and the land. On the smoky "Broken Arrow," Amos is defiant and persistent, calling out the elected in Washington by asking "Are we emancipators or oppressors/Of Lady Liberty?" before warning that "we the people...will be watching over you." On the urgent, onomatopoeic "Bang," she conjures the elements in a pro-immigrant proclamation that reminds listeners that -- no matter which country they're from -- we're all "molecular machines" made of the same star stuff. At the dramatic close, Amos runs through a list of elements in an updated "Datura" of the periodic table. It's a wild and inspired moment sure to please fans of the singer's eccentricities. The undulating "Bats" invokes mythical water beings to help "fight to save the fate of our waves," while "Benjamin" holds nothing back, branding the fossil fuel industry and "the men on the hill" as "those pimps in Washington...selling the rape of America." When Amos steps aside from the sociopolitical, she returns listeners to another kind of turmoil: relationship drama. Like on Unrepentant Geraldines and Abnormally Attracted to Sin, Amos' marriage to husband Mark Hawley is examined in raw detail on songs like "Wings," "Breakaway," and "Chocolate Song," where she laments "we used to be happy." Hawley's guitar also plays an important role on the album -- like on American Doll Posse -- whether it's the wah-wah on "Broken Arrow" or the sprawling solo on the yearning "Wildwood." Romantic heartbreak aside, the most devastating personal moment arrives on "Mary's Eyes," about Amos' mother, who was left unable to communicate after a stroke. After singing so many songs about saving Mother Nature, in the end, she simply wants to save her own. It's a heartbreaking plea that expands on the sentiments from "The Beekeeper" and closes the album on a somber note. Native Invader stands tall with its own vital voice and energy, alluding to beloved touchstones from throughout Amos' oeuvre while remaining fully of its time.
Native Invader Review
by Neil Z. Yeung