Review of Amanda Palmer’s “Theater is Evil”

When the Dresden Dolls hit the shelves with their first album when I was thirteen, they were, for me personally, as they undoubtedly were and still are for countless others, a delightfully refreshing musical group that stood in stark relief against a pop culture background featuring increasingly homogenized electronic music.  Their cabaret style that blended so well with a modern rock twist brought back a classic sound, splendidly repackaged in a new, performative manner. Amanda Palmer, the pianist and lead singer of the duo, really knew how to reach for the emotionally aggressive child in you without sounding immaturely angsty and trite.  Surely there were many years to come from the band, featuring not only Palmer but her right hand man and drummer, Brian Viglione. At least that was what I thought. But then the dazzling pair seemed to have completely vanished from the music scene, at least in the form of their mime bedecked act for Dresden Dolls. The albums from their studio stopped pouring out in about 2008 and it seemed, for then at least, that they were both absorbed into side projects that signaled, in my mind, that my beloved punk cabaret duet was over. I would from then on be forced to just repeat the past by resorting to their only three albums when I wanted that brutal honesty Palmer’s lyrics brought out about the world.

Was this the death of that evocative, radical sound that had so defined the beloved duo? It was anyone’s guess at the time.

Needless to say, I lost hope, until I finally had a chance to hear Palmer’s solo work. Without Brian, I thought the feel of the music would have slipped away. The pair had, in my own mind,  been a necessary ingredient in the production of the sound that shook up my younger years so much. But thank god, my fears did not come true and the music was not at all at an end. Palmer’s solo work proved to be something quite different at first with her debut album, Who Killed Amanda Palmer? But it still was gritty and suggestive as ever, with titles such as Leeds United and Astronaut proving that the gal still possessed, and always had, the chops  to make the listener uncomfortable as ever while still sounding like something coming out of a twenties night club.

Palmer’s newest released, Theater is Evil, which first appeared in the beginning of September of this year, gives new insight to the songwriter’s abilities, as she heads forth into even more of an alternative rock sound than her previous work had delved into. The work at the same time still retains that visceral feeling of its proceeding albums, like you just looked too deeply into someone’s thoughts, and can’t ever really eradicate the impression that those thoughts in some way mirror sentiments of your own. Even at her most specific lyrical moments she still has this magical method of wrapping it in a universality of meaning that points out the strengths of her writing ability.

I’m not the killing type
But I would kill to make you feel
I don’t mean kill someone for real
I couldn’t do that, it is wrong
But I can say it in a song

– “The Killing Type”

Theater is Evil was funded by Kickstarter, a website that allows interested parties to help aid a project that needs a financial boost. Palmer’s fan base said yes to more, and the product that came out of their support and Palmer’s genius is worth every bit of the six dollars the album is selling for on Amazon.


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