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- July 6, 2004

The Dresden Dolls: The Dresden Dolls

In the complex, sinister world of Boston's Dresden Dolls, Brechtian punk, show tunes and decadent pop conflate to capture the confusion of mental illness. Singer and pianist Amanda Palmer sings frantic songs, teetering between intimate confession and disturbing disconnect, while Brian Viglione's drumming slams underneath. Occasionally guitars, bass and other strings join in, but mostly this duo handily creates waves of sound that match the toil in Palmer's husky alto. For as she wails about emotional instability, sexual confusion and self-mutilation, the music swarms and dissolves around her, mimicking the violent, sudden mood swings of depression. It's not exactly easy listening. Still, this self-titled debut is indeed wickedly ironic. On the addictive, circus-y "Coin Operated Boy," Palmer muses, "Made of plastic and elastic, he is rugged and long lasting/Who could ever ask for more? Love without complications galore." The song, though, like the rest of the record, is ultimately tragic: fearless music with the potential to dismantle. (BENJAMIN FRIEDLAND)