University of Rhode Island Student Newspaper - February 3, 2005
Love, sex and sex changes permeate every moment of the Dresden Doll's self-titled sophomore release.
by Jess Lucero
Comprised of Amanda Palmer; vocalist and pianist, along with Brian Viglione; drummer, the Dresden Dolls are a self-proclaimed "Brechtian punk cabaret" band from Boston who have created an entirely new style of music - melding rock, jazz, pop and German influences to create a driving and unclassifiable genre. Some might say they are yet another two person, Boston-based, Brechtian Punk Cabaret band who gets naked on stage and dresses up like mimes, but they are oh so much more.
The Dresden Dolls' self-titled album offers a piece of Amanda Palmer's heavenly chaotic brain to listeners. The pithy alto voice of Palmer is a powerhouse of emotional range, quickly alternating from a screeching-hate-death-cry to a quavering whisper then easily, and just as quickly, returning back to its "normal" swarthy tone.
She often cascades through verses, slowly sliding up and down the scales while building to a crescendo, only to abruptly stop, leaving the listener desperately yearning for more. After waiting, waiting, waiting ... there is sudden relief and she begins again.
Palmer takes self-deprecation to new heights - using witty comebacks, alter-egos and sarcastically honest verses in this post-breakup album. The heavily pain-laden lyrics are offset by her mocking and cutting tone, often aimed at herself. Songs showcase Palmer's own voice as her alter ego; overlapping, contradicting and condemning herself.
The combination of sounds that accompany Palmer's vocals is like a swim through her subconscious. She even recites the alphabet, creating an immense juxtaposition of mature lyrics and childlike memories, toy pianos and simple, innocent lyrics.
The ephemeral cacophony created rivals that of Radiohead, allowing the listener to simply drift amongst the competing thoughts and childlike melodies. Palmer's robust voice solidly grounds the songs however, producing an airy work firmly weighed down in reality by Palmer's incredulous self-doubt.
The Dresden Dolls also take us into somewhat foreign territory, discussing the masochistic pleasure of cutting, the personal struggle of a hermaphrodite and how to divide the world between former lovers. Other songs address quirky pedophilic jailings, personal inadequacies and lost love.
Rather than backup instrumentation such as flutes or even guitar, the lineup reads more like a list from Home Depot. Sawing, hammering and crashing glass are often heard throughout the album, as listeners spy into this secret world of love, deceit and uncertainty.
The exceptionally catchy first single, "Coin Operated Boy," tells the story of a wind-up boy used to replace a past boyfriend. It begins light hearted and cheery, but quickly enters a world of sweeping interludes describing Palmer's fear of being alone and without her ex-boyfriend. We then strain to hear as hammering, sawing and scribbling ensues. We only guess she is enacting the dream of every girl; creating her perfect boy.
The Dresden Dolls can evoke such strong emotions from fans because they are willing to bare all, literally and figuratively as they push the boundaries and stretch the limits of rock.