The Dresden Dolls: Yes, Virginia...

I've heard great things about The Dresden Dolls. They're like a rock version of Kurt Weill. They're crazier than Tom Waits. They're better than sliced bread.

My expectations were high, and Yes, Virginia... almost lives up to them.

The Dresden Dolls is the duo of Amanda Palmer (piano/vocals) and Brian Viglione (drums). They make an incredible amount of noise for a two-piece, and their songwriting is edgy but sophisticated.

My biggest problem with Yes, Virginia... is the lyrics. Lines like "there are some school kids / yelling and running / I barely notice / that I am cumming," aren't good enough for either Penthouse Forum or a second-rate poetry magazine, but somehow they made it onto the album. It's a shame, because the loneliness and isolation of "First Orgasm" could've been incredibly moving with the right words.

At times, however, the lyrics shine. The suffering and denial in "Mrs. O" is captivating, and "Delilah" offers a sad picture of a girl who screws her way to the bottom. But the album's star is "Sing," a bright song that brought up an interesting dilemma for me.

I love swearing, but in lyrics, I believe it's most effective when no other words will suffice. When I first heard the closing refrain of "Sing" ("You motherfuckers, you'll sing someday"), I thought Palmer sounded like a 14-year-old who was trying to shock people. But after a few listens, I realized she was correct in her choice of words. She's angry because she loves the world and all the motherfuckers in it, and she wants us to sing -- for ourselves, for each other, for the good and the bad and the ugly and the stupid. And those of us who won't sing... well, she still wants us to sing, because we're the motherfuckers who need it most of all.

Music: 4 EPFL library cards out of a possible 5
The Dresden Dolls have their own style. They don't always succeed, but they try something adventurous and, for the most part, they pull it off. At times, I do wish the songs were bigger. Palmer is a talented pianist, but her loud parts often sound as if she's simply banging on the keys instead of reaching into her piano and ripping out its innards. Fortunately, Viglione's drumming is strong and dynamic, and he adds power to the music without overshadowing its soul.

Packaging: 5 EPFL library cards out of a possible 5 (Altered by EPFL.)
The Dresden Dolls got a bunch of different artists to create pieces that were displayed in a destroyed theatre. I don't have a good enough eye to know what (if anything) was Photoshopped and what was set up in the old building, but it's all incredibly striking. The images remind me of a bizarre mix of Hiroshi Sugimoto's theatre photos and Urban Atrophy.

Listen if you like: Rock music that forces you to pay attention. To me, The Dresden Dolls sound like a mix of Rasputina's quirky chamber goth, Joe Jackson's Broadway-tinged new wave, and Sinead O'Connor's The Lion and the Cobra. Fans of Kurt Weill, Marlene Dietrich, and other German cabaret artists should give this a shot.

If it were food, it'd be: Soup. It's a weird soup, because it's got New England clam chowder and sauerkraut and even a bit of ratatouille in it, but it tastes pretty good. Yeah, sometimes you get a mouthful that's nasty, but don't be too quick to spit it out: if you roll it around on your tongue a bit, you might find that it's the best spoonful from the entire bowl.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I somewhat agree with you about the lyrics of "First Orgasm," but even in this one Amanda displays her true songwriting talents. In the verse that immmediately follows the one you quoted, she sings:

the first orgasm of the morning / is like a fire drill / it's nice to have a little warning / but not enjoyable

Wow! To me, that nicely encapsulates the isolation and mental/sexual health of the character.