Amanda Palmer – [Album]

Monday, 01 September 2008

How strange is the world that Amanda Palmer has sketched for herself. Since she first appeared with Dresden Dolls professing to perform a “Brechtian punk cabaret” – so named because the singer couldn’t bear the thought of letting others mistakenly call it something synonymous with ‘goth’ – Palmer (along with drummer Brian Viglione) has reveled in producing a series of three-penny psychodramas that, with each successive release, put more flesh on the grainy bones of a strange, sepia tone celluloid creature of her own design. Most recently, the Dolls have begun to transplant a few other sensibilities into their body of work as well – No Virginia, for example, found the band dabbling in a bit of new wave (the cover of a John Hughes movie theme is the proof in that pudding) and gradually working more fluid and rockist rhythms into the music  and thus deepening their intrigue as a result.

Incorporating all of the sonic elements she’s honed with Dresden Dolls but adding a few all new twists to the script as well, Palmer’s first solo work is both fantastic and frustrating all at once in the best imaginable senses of each term. On one hand, Who Killed Amanda Palmer is the ultimate exposition of the sounds that the Dresden Dolls have been perfecting for the last seven years and with which they’ve been amassing a growing fan base. Songs like “Leeds United” and “Guitar Hero” (with a guest appearance by Dead Kennedys’ East Bay Ray) play like Dresden Dolls on steroids as far as, with the Berthold Brecht and Kurt Weill references that her band has always garnered intact, Palmer inflates the Dresden Dolls’ modus operandi to critical mass with  a brilliantly wheezing horn section, classically trained and orchestrated strings and even exposing (on “What’s The Use Of Wond’rin?”) a classical vocal training never before heard from the singer. As well, in addition to her own accomplished and consistently quirky stabs at the eighty-eight keys, producer/secret weapon Ben Folds helps out by introducing some glossy silliness (check out the twisted and manic workout that is “Oasis” for an idea) to keep things light and introduce another brand of radio-ready hook.

On the other hand, Palmer does renege on her word here by giving in to the goth. Other than the companion coffee table book by the same name penned by Sandman and The Dreaming scribe Neil Gaiman (I defy anyone to find a more tasteful gothic exhibit than those two titles), the overwhelming feel of Who Killed Amanda Palmer (which could also be an allusion to the Twin Peaks tagline “Who killed Laura Palmer?”) is one of dimly lit decadence and late-night opulence as the strings swell in “Runs In The Family” and “Ampersand” as well as gently nudging “Astronaut: A Short History Of Almost Nothing” into the sublime pleasure centers of any eyeliner-graced romantic. It’s a moment of delicacy seldom seen in rock, but here Amanda Palmer stretches it masterfully to encompass and dominate every microtone of her solo debut and placing it not only as a brand apart from anything currently happening in rock, but also a fair step from her work with Dresden Dolls as well.

Who Killed Amanda Palmer
comes out September 16, 2008 on Roadrunner Records.


Related Articles:
The Dresden Dolls – No, Virginia... – [Album Review]

Comments are closed.