The first time I heard Under The Pink, almost eight years ago now, I hated it. I came to the album as an Amos fan, and, fresh out of a Little Earthquakes obsession, I was all prepared for another masterpiece. What I got instead – or at least, what I thought I got – was a collection of lifeless pop singles. My hatred was most pronounced for Cornflake Girl, a song I thought was so twee and desperately ‘kooky’ that it almost undid all the love I had for Amos.
Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I realize my dislike of the album was what Steve Albini refers to as ‘listener error.’ I was judging the album by what I thought it was, rather than its own entity, and I was projecting upon it like a mad thing.
On the surface, Under The Pink might present itself as more accessible than Little Earthquakes, but in truth, the album is even more odd – even more determinedly difficult – than its predecessor. By giving her songs a sheen, Amos manages to create a mashup of tones that works in deeply impressive ways: songs like Bells For Her are simultaneously fragile and rough, managing to mix together emotional opposites with bravado. Even the jazzy Past The Mission offers more on repeated listens; its defiant mix of odd and pop only fully reveals its greatness the third or fourth time it’s spun.
What about Cornflake Girl though, a song that sounded to me then like nails down a chalkboard? Coming to it now, I realize it’s one of Amos’ finest tracks: a distinct, emotive anthem that has spawned generations of imitators. Listening to the track, one can see the genesis of Regina Spektor’s entire sound, not to mention countless other indie pop artists. It’s a real triumph, and one that I’m not at all ashamed to say I was totally wrong about.
But, I’m going to try not to get too bogged down with the album itself: after all, Amos fans will already be aware of its great power. What will attract them to this reissue will be the additional tracks; a mix of live versions and B-sides. So, do Amos fans really need to fork out the cash for this reissue? Does it offer anything they don’t already have?
In short: yes, and more. The live versions are touching and powerful, with Winter and The Waitress being the real standouts. A CJ Bolland remix of God is an exceptional inclusion: Bolland’s deft hand transforms the song into something truly special, and layers it with dense, throbbing instrumentation that only serves to elevate the track rather than take away from it.
The Under The Pink reissue is a lovingly crafted gift for the fans. It’s a powerful reminder of Amos’ great talents as a singer-songwriter, but more than that, it’s an elegant addition to the musician’s legacy.