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The Dresden Dolls' self titled debut album is, simply put, quite stunning. It's one of those rare moments in music where something completely original comes along, and it's the sound you've been waiting for for so long but no one was producing.
So along comes painist-vocalist Amanda Palmer and drummer Brian Viglione. Their own brand of post-Brechtian punk rock Cabaret is simply amazing, with a fantastically unique sound, and some truly great lyrics.
So the album starts out quite calmly with Good Day, a quite decent song about Amanda Palmer's good day, which apparently everyone finds boring because, let's face it, bad days are simply so much more fun. Then, out of nowhere comes the insane, piano-thumping song Girl Anachronism, where Amanda sings about how she feels she wasn't born in the right century, and how she deals with this. It's a huge turn around from the last track - manic, fast-paced and quite intense, especially the first time you hear it. Then the calm returns with Missed Me - a story of a little girl who wants her gentleman lover (yup) to want her more, eventually leading in a mad love-cazed ending where the girl has him sent to jail, only to miss him. It's incredibly well written, with the rhyme "missed me, missed me, now you gotta kiss me" repeated, adding this childish innocence to the sinister lyrics.
The fourth song on the album is Half-Jack, a pretty mellow(ish) song which song people claim to have one meaning, and others another. I like to think it's to do with father issues, but no matter what it's about the lyrics are great and the accompanying music no different. I love how it ends with Amanda screaming "Run Jack!" over and over in increasing intensity. It ends, and (especially if you just had it playing at max volume) leaves you quite stunned.
To me the first four songs are the best on the album. The other songs are certainly all excellent to listen to, but I can't really give you the big discourse on them, because I'm not entirely sure what they're about.
There's 672, following Half Jack, which is the shortest and most calm of the songs and sounds more like some sort of epilogue or interlude between songs more than an actual track. Coin Operated Boy follows, which sounds like Amanda's tribute songs to vibrators, followed by the fast-paced Bad Habit and the eerily slow Perfect Fit. Then there's the stylish and slick Gravity - one of the highlights of the album
In fact, that's what I love about this album. It switches mood constantly throughout and you're never quite sure what to feel as you're thrown around these interesting intricate stories the duo are playing out for you.
The Jeep Song is, as far as I'm concerned on the shallowest level, about Jeeps. I could be wrong. But the Dolls have a great habit of making the simplest songs sound complex as anything (like Palmer's Guitar Hero which is simply about video games). Following the song is Slide which is still one of the most haunting and scary songs I've ever heard. The song starts soft, slow, and we get this story of a little girl being 'picked up' by an old man. It really gets under your skin, especially near the end when the otherwise calm and eerie tune becomes a cacophonous nightmare with crashing drums and dissonant notes.
The final song is Truce, but I'm usually too shaken up by Slide to listen to it. But it's pretty good, from what I remember.
The Dresden Dolls' debut album is really quite something. It's filled with some lyrical mastery by Amanda Palmer and the music, even by itself, is really good. It's deep and mature stuff, touching upon some pretty big subjects. It's musical poetry at its best. If you're into great musical storytelling, with some songs that are nothing like the usual mainstream stuff, go buy this. You won't regret it.
This is the first Full length album by The Dolls after the live mini-album 'A Is For Accident', and out of all of their releases it is the one that has the most 'cabaret' feel to it with tracks such as the creepy 'Missed Me' and 'Slide', and fast paced vaudeville style 'Bad Habit' and roaring 'Girl Anachronism'.
Amanda Palmer's lyrics are incredible sharp and witty, with each line slotting perfectly into place and coated with double, triple and quadruple meanings.
The drums, played by Brian Viglione are expertly played with complex experimental beats. The Piano played by Palmer ranges from desperate pounding to delicate tinkling to make an interesting and varied record.
Some of the more modern sounding tracks like 'Truce' and 'Good Day' were probably the low point for me as the melodies seemed a bit undeveloped, but at least the lyrics stayed consistently clever and interesting.
This album excels because Palmer is an expert at creating the old-style cabaret mood so well with near perfect execution. This juxtaposed with her edgy modern lyrics have made a unique and interesting album. Id recommend this to anyone with an open mind to new and unusual music tastes.
It is difficult to say what exactly comes to mind when trying to describe the Dresden Dolls. In interviews, they have described themselves as "Brechtian Punk Cabaret," a good description indeed.
The band consists of Amanda Palmer, who sings and plays piano and Brian Viglione, who plays the drums. The songs are very basic in structure, as most contain primarily of Amanda's voice, piano and drums. Occasionally, there is a guitar playing, or some interesting sound effects, but nothing more.
The record opens subtly with "Good Day," with the sound of a broken music box playing quietly. It is, needless to say, creepy, and sets up the tone for things to come.
The second song, "Girl Anachronism," in complete contrast, is a neurotic, unstable song that it highly relatable to anybody who has ever felt like they do not fit in the right place. Amanda spits out every lyric like fire which suits the manic pace of this song perfectly.
"Missed Me" is another quiet song that is reminiscent of a children's nursery rhyme. Because of this, the song could be (and often has been) interpreted as one about pedophilia, but, I think it is a song that has more to do with loneliness, paranoia, and resentment.
"Half Jack" is a haunting song; one of my favorites on the album. It remains simple in structure, but builds up to the grand finale, where Amanda screams for Jack.
"672" is a musical interlude with the single lyric "672" being repeated throughout. Even Amanda and Brian claim they do not know the meaning of the song, but it is nice for an occasional listen, and the piano part is beautiful.
"Coin Operated Boy" is the most commercial song on the album, and is delightfully fun, but it's also lonely. This is one of the standout songs on the record.
"Gravity" is a schmaltzy, sexy song where the protagonist explores her own faults, blaming them on other things. The second chorus about halfway through is a particular stroke of genius.
"Bad Habit" is one of my favorite songs on the record, but probably the most controversial, as it is a ballad to the euphoria found in self harm. Amanda has explained that it was inspired by her addiction to biting her nails, but the lyrics "happiness is just a gash away" could obviously be interpreted as cutting one's wrists. Some people love this song, some hate it.
"Perfect Fit" is another song about the feeling of inadequacy, but unique in style again. The lyrics in this song are very observant and intelligent- a list of contradictions ('I can clothe a continent, but I can't sew a stitch') that the protagonist feels trapped by.
"The Jeep Song" is an unusually sunny song in it's melody, and the subject matter about how after a break-up, the protagonist feels she sees her ex everywhere. Again, it's another song that many people will relate to. (Particularly the people of Boston, where apparently there are a lot of jeeps.)
The last two songs in the record I found the most difficult to interpret or like. They are both subtle, particularly "Slide-" a song about a young woman's sexual awakening. "Truce" is another controversial song, that parallels the 9/11 attacks with a breakup. Although not my favorites, they are still both worth a listen.
The Dresden Dolls debut album is a wonderful analysis of emotions and mind, but it does so without being emo or feeling sorry for itself. It is dark, self-depreciating, tongue in cheek and beautiful. This band is a breath of fresh air, and you should definitely give this album a go!
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Good Day
2 Girl Anachronism
3 Missed Me
4 Half Jack
6 Coin-Operated Boy
8 Bad Habit
9 Perfect Fit
10 Jeep Song