The Weekly Dig - September, 2003
Doll-Part Album Comes Together
by Michael Marotta
With a few months left in 2003, there was just one last thing the Dresden Dolls needed to accomplish. Sure, the Brechtian punk cabaret act surprisingly yet decidedly took top honors at the WBCN Rumble and garnered a litany of Best Band accolades from various Boston scribes. But with an early four-track demo and a to-please-the-fans live release as the only recordings of the electricity that is the Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione experience, it was high time to get that much-anticipated debut album out to the masses.
But because this is the world of the Dresden Dolls, the proper CD release party for the eponymous debut, slated for official release the next day, is planned to be as epic as the strains in Palmer's voice and as thunderous as Viglione's drumming entropy. In fact, "party" might be the wrong word entirely - the night, this Friday at the Paradise Rock Club, has been deemed a ball, complete with live performances by the Dolls, NYC's nine-piece World/Inferno Friendship Society and Boston's Count Zero as well as comedy routines, cerebral performance art of Les Freres Corbusier and, naturally, a twisted breed of vaudeville clowns. Video installations will provide an added visual aesthetic.
No, this isn't your father's record release party.
"It's more like an event," says Palmer. "It's more than a club night." So much so, that guests - yes, guests - have been kindly asked to join in the atmosphere by dressing up for the part, with Viglione personally suggesting Keezer's and Palmer pointing the ladies to the Great Eastern Trading Company, both in Central Square, for appropriate attire. They mean business.
"We're doing festive dress," Viglione says with a confidence that suggests the success has been played out in his brunette head a million times over. "We got asked recently why we dress up, and it's just as fun to be a crowd member to come decked out to a show; it puts you in that mood, just as getting dressed on stage puts you in a different head space. Being dressed up in the crowd makes you feel like you're really a part of what's happening, a part of the energy in the room."
It's that connection that has lead the Dolls' legions of devout supporters to almost take this release as something as their own. The fans know the songs by heart, have seen the live shows religiously and show up in hordes. There isn't a two-person side performing to a crowd; it's one sole mass reveling together in disturbingly enchanting music.
"This is a beautiful night of fun. It's celebrating our friends and everyone who has been with us the past two years," adds Viglione. "It's incredible to see fans singing along to 'Half Jack' or 'Good Day'; it's such a rush when you see all of that devotion culminating in one room."
With the release of the record, the devotion will easily continue and multiply, now in lonely bedrooms as well as emotionally charged clubs. That was precisely the challenge in recording the album. Known for a riveting live show that has loosened up more than a few jaws and assuaged fans of all musical persuasions, the Dolls have successfully transplanted the live energy and telepathic chemistry between Palmer and Viglione into the studio's recorded form, drawing not only from standard Dolls fare, such as the frantic punk ethos of "Girl Anachronism" and the skittish fairy-tale playfulness of "Coin-Operated Boy," but adding new songs rarely played in front of a paying public. The musically-optimistic-yet-lyrically-haunting "Jeep Song" and the raw emotion of "672" elevate the Dolls unto new heights, thanks to help from producer Martin Bisi, who has worked with Sonic Youth and Swans.
"Bisi was incredible to work with," Viglione says. "It was a perfect match; [he was] absolutely in tune with what we were going for and had all of the background to execute all of what we wanted."
The impact of Bisi crystallized in an album that, after the ball, will be sprinkled on the virginal audiences of the Midwest during an independent tour opening up for Edward Ka-Spel of the Legendary Pink Dots. This will be the first time the Dolls have reached beyond the New England-New York area.
Setting up the tour was not difficult. Since the album released on the Dolls' own label, Eight Foot
Records (named after Palmer's persona as the Eight Foot Bride), it's Palmer and Viglione calling the shots.
With that in mind and the record out, there's just one more thing the Dolls have their collective sight on.
"Our own theme park," shouts Viglione.
"Yeah, Dresdenwood," echoes Palmer, without missing a beat, thinking just the same thing.
But first, getting that damn album out will suffice.