High school is the best time to develop affectations that will act as surrogates for a personality. Most of the time you meet someone cooler than you, and you just do what they do. I, like many others I'm sure, became a vegetarian to impress a girl. It didn't really work, but at least I had established myself as a human being. I was a Vegetarian, with an upper-case V. That let people know that I cared about animals, the environment, and impressing girls with tattoos. This lifestyle choice/affectation was something that stuck with me through high school and into college. I have never, in my entire life, dated a vegetarian. Not a single one. That didn't matter, though. I just wanted girls to know that I cared about things. Guys know that “caring about things” is the number one thing a woman looks for in a mate. That's why they find things that they care about – to trick people into thinking they care about things. In some cases it backfires, and they actually end up caring, but I digress.
I met a girl in seventh or eighth grade who cared about strong women playing the piano. When she asked me what kind of music I liked, I immediately lied and said Tori Amos. It seemed like the right play to call. What I did not expect – which, looking back, I should have totally expected – was for her to reply “Oh, I love Tori Amos. What's your favorite Tori Amos album?” What happened next I do not recall, but I'm pretty sure it ended with me running away shouting “I HAVE TO GO TO THE BATHROOM NOW! GOODBYE!” Right after school, I ran down to Spinnaker Records on Main Street in Hyannis and bought Under the Pink and Boys for Pele, the two cheapest Tori Amos albums in stock. I got home and found, to my great surprise, that I did not really like either of these albums. This was bad. I was supposed to call this girl the next night, and I figured she'd ask me all about Tori Amos. This was before Wikipedia, so cramming and faking my way through a conversation was out of the question. I had to Stockholm Syndrome my way through these albums. If I didn't like them now, Goddamnit, I would by tomorrow night.
After three or four listens, I found a dozen or so songs, maybe an hour's worth of music, that I liked. The tuneful songs were pretty good. The moaning and slamming on a piano songs, not so much. I put together a mix for myself, and then pored over it like a quarterback studying a playbook. The next night I called her, and we talked for a few hours. Tori Amos never came up. Unfortunately, I was 20 dollars into this ruse, so I was going to get 20 dollars worth of enjoyment out of Tori Amos' music. I listened and listened and listened, and finally convinced myself that I really liked it. I liked Tori Amos a lot. I liked Tori Amos so much that I bought all of her albums and a few live bootlegs and a couple of t-shirts. This happens to me a lot. I'll choose an affectation, then get way too into it. I became a vegetarian to impress one single girl who I never saw again after ninth grade, but I stuck with it until I was 20. I possess that rare quality known as “sticktoitiveness,” which is why I am such a good business leader in the 21st Century.
I abandoned Tori once she started getting all weird. Well, weirder. She released like, a dozen concept albums in a row. The first couple, Strange Little Girls and Scarlet's Walk, were pretty good. The former being a collection of cover songs and the latter about post-9/11 America. If you were a Real Serious Musician in 2002, you had to release an album about post-9/11 America, or ASCAP revoked your membership. Next came a handful of albums exploring her various personalities, each less coherent and cohesive than the last. I was not on board, so I checked out. I sort of dropped Tori Amos' catalog wholesale at that point. She poisoned her own well.
Having relistened to Under the Pink and Boys for Pele, I'm pretty much where I was the first time I listened to them. There are some really great, pleasing-but-still-edgy songs on each album, but much of it is very tough to slog through. As a service to you, my dear beloved reader, I have constructed an album consisting of six songs each from these two albums. Buy each of them individually on iTunes. It'll be cheaper than buying the two albums, and in this case, the parts are greater than the whole sum or whatever. You heard what I meant.
1: Pretty Good Year
2: Professional Widow
3: Caught a Lite Sneeze
5: Cornflake Girl
6: Past the Mission
8: The Wrong Band
10: Little Amsterdam
11: Cloud On My Tongue
12: Putting the Damage On
Study this. Learn it, love it. Now all you need to do is go back in time to 1997, when girls everywhere cared about Tori Amos. Soon enough, you'll be dating a girl who's into spooky makeup and tongue piercings. You're welcome!