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The Dresden Dolls self titled debut album was a real burst of adrenaline in the stagnant alternative music scene; it's combination of raunchy, raw lyrics with powerful drums and crazy piano melodies made it an unforgettable listen, and an album that I shall always consider as one of my all time favourites.
'Yes Virginia' is the Detroit Duo's second offering and an album I very much anticipated. Having not heard any of the songs either as singles or album fillers until I received this as a birthday gift, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione's first outing as the Dolls was a complete success to me, with only a few dud songs on their debut, and I was hoping for that with 'Yes Virginia'. I also craved the manic, piano and drum driven tunes and quirky, straight talking lyrics which to me made The Dresden Dolls so enticing in the first place; as a band, their songs weren't all focused around the everyday theme of love and instead, when brief notions of euphoria were passed on 'The Dresden Dolls', the lyrics seemed to express such happiness in a really peculiar way. The wordplay of Palmer's songs thankfully continues on this record and in fact shines through even more so than on the group's first effort from 2003.
'I'LL BE ON MY BEST BEHAVIOUR, TAKING SHOTS FOR MOTHER NATURE' (Lyrics to 'My Alcoholic Friends')
Kicking off the album is 'Sex Changes', a wacky little bundle of energy which boasts aggressive, amusingly true lyrics that focus on humanities confusion with sexuality and their desire to sometimes switch genders, allowing them to explore life through their partners eyes. 'Sex Changes' is the epitome of a Dolls track; punchy with good, fun and intelligent lyrics, there is a familiarity with the track but it's also much more concise than a lot of the bands previous work and makes it a thrilling opener. 'Backstabber' pretty much takes off where 'Sex Changes' left off and is another high energy, up tempo track. All about the confliction of fame and privacy, 'Backstabber' again plays host to several of Palmer's amusing ripostes, in which she discusses her anger as to how her lover only sleeps with girls who admire his music. 'Backstabber' is one of my favourite tracks from 'Yes, Virginia'; it droll, tells a great story and exhibits more of the menacing piano melodies that Amanda is the Queen of.
'Modern Moonlight' is pure brilliance, boasting my favourite lyrics from the album: 'How can they complain we're all just f****d up kids/when they keep on changing who our Mother is?' Fantastically witty, the piano is well delivered and really compliments the style of the words with the introduction of an alarmed slap of the drum skins really drawing your attention to the track straight away. The pace is one of the fastest that the Dolls have ever attempted and I think it really works for them; there is a certain punkish streak that is at the core of their music and you can't help but notice that on a track like 'Modern Moonlight', especially with Amanda's vocal snarling. The fourth track, 'My Alcoholic Friends' does slow the pace down a little but, as a track, it still has a set of imaginative lyrics and energy, about the transgression of a relapsing alcoholic. The pleasant thing about 'My Alcoholic Friends' is the fact that Amanda gets to display a slightly calmer side to her piano playing with a classical type interlude in the middle of the track. Unexpected moments like that add depth to the album and show that the Dresden Dolls aren't completely about fast paced, slightly goofy songs.
'YOU ARE IMPOSSIBLE DELILAH: THE PRINCESS OF DENIAL' (Lyrics from 'Delilah')
'Delilah' is also an unanticipated track on the album; although the self-title debut had its fair share of slower, more manic-depressive numbers such as 'The Perfect Fit' and 'Half Jack' none of them seemed to slip into the same levels of melancholy as 'Delilah' because of how Amanda is telling the story of another, rather than herself, and makes the abused yet naive girl seem effortlessly realistic and solemn. The slight moments of noise are there to add character to the song and act as a metaphor for the frustration of being unable to help a beloved friend, making 'Delilah' one of the most poignant and genuine moments on the entire album. 'Dirty Business' gets the rapid drum beats and stomping pianos going again but it's not powerful enough to contend with the subtly strong 'Delilah'. It's one of the most forgettable songs on the album and doesn't seem to have the same charm and wit that the first four up tempo tracks on the album possess.
'First Orgasm' also comes in as a weak song; dropping right down in terms of speed, it's all about the thankfulness of sexual pleasure in a mundane life but the fact that the piano trudges on at a rather boring pace makes this track seem too lacklustre and it's a shame: 'First Orgasm' could have told a really interesting story but it wasn't handled right during production to make the track seem as sincere as 'Delilah'. The strangely wonderful 'Mrs O' is a great pick-me-up after 'First Orgasm' because of its punchy feel, but without trying to contend with something like 'Backstabber' as a speedy affair. Instead, 'Mrs. O' has some truly great vocals where Amanda's voice is quite clear but the flipside to that is her off-key approach to singing is lost and that's one of my favourite things about the Dresden Dolls: they aren't perfect and don't pretend to be so it's music that can be enjoyed because of its authentic feel, where the songs haven't been tampered with too much to lose their spontaneous appeal.
'AND THAT'S WHY GOD MADE ESCOURT AGENCIES' (Lyrics from 'Shores of California')
'Shores of California' is an utterly charming track, sporting greatly funny words; this is an unusual choice of single for the band in my opinion because it doesn't immediately strike you as being an amazing song but it grows on you drastically after several listens, namely because of the jokey lyrics. Yet, with some of the shameless shenanigans in the video, it helps boost 'Shores of California' into a much better track than originally perceived. 'Necessary Evil' is up next and is just too catchy for its own good! It has some great use of backing vocals from Brian which adds texture and interest to the song whilst promoting the benefits of, uh, Listerine. Going from a song about boys playing with themselves to promoting oral hygiene, the band seem to cross a lot of boundaries but continually with a sly smirk.
'Mandy Goes To Med Schools' is not only a clever little number but one of he best tracks I've ever heard from the two piece; it would simply be too rude of me to provide any of the lyrics but all I'll say is it's about the goings on of a backstreet abortion clinic! Sure, it's not a topic I'd ever really care to know about but you can't help but toe- tap to this one and sing along because of its raucous, Cabaret type feel with some suburb vocals from Amanda. However, unfortunately we go from the sublime to the ridiculous with the second to last song; 'Me & The Minibar' is an annoying, self indulgent drone, as I imagine it was intended to be, all about someone celebrating their birthday in solitude with only booze for company. 'Me & The Minibar' is one of the few tracks I always skip whilst listening to this album, partly because of Amanda's too outrageous vocals which really do grate on you. On this occasion, instead of adding to the general ambiance of the song, Amanda's vocals detract greatly away from the notion of loneliness, which is a great shame.
Although I do normally like how Amanda's singing voice isn't perfect, the bodged falsetto note at the end just doesn't work; although it emphasises her sadness at being alone, it sounds like a dog howling which just makes the song in itself seem shambolic and over emphasised when it should have just been left as a demo at best.
'THERE IS THIS THING KEEPING EVERYONES LUNGS AND LIPS LOCKED' (Lyrics from 'Sing')
'Sing' ends the album and is undeniably one of the slowest songs the Dolls have ever attempted but, by doing so, they've really added to the story; Amanda's simple message implores fans to join in with the music when they go to a concert rather than standing on the sidelines and screaming for the hunky band member! I like how the track grows from being quite a slow affair with just Palmer's vocals and a barely there piano into something quite epic, which rounds the record off in a much better way than the groups previous effort did as 'Sing' seems to have its own authority, even with such a controlled vocal performance which complements the song beautifully.
One of the things that I do want to emphasise about The Dresden Dolls is the fact that it's a style of music that isn't for everybody; I personally enjoy quirky, bizarre tracks about lost love and alcoholism and whilst many other bands have attempted such topics in the past, none of them have really produced anything that is as tongue waggingly blatant as the Dolls. 'Mandy Goes To Med School' is not a commercial music lovers dream because of how dark the subject matter is. However, at the same time, it took a couple of listens for me to fully 'get' all of the lyrics to the said song and the double entendre behind the words, due to just how bouncy and fun the tune behind the song was.
Cabaret has never been a style of music I've ever really appreciated but the Dolls have been clever, particularly on 'Yes Virginia' in crafting an album which mixes several styles to create something that would appeal to many alternative music loving fans. You have the slight elements of Cabaret because of the happy-go-lucky style of the piano which is juxtaposed with the rebellious, punkish scowls of the lyrics and vocals and the heavy metal drum beats that sometimes divulge into softer textures to really compliment some of the more sombre songs. In that respect, I liken The Dresden Dolls with bands like Placebo, for some of the sadder storytelling, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, for the raging tunes and bizarre lyrics, but minus the guitars.
However, I never found myself missing the guitars that I am normally so in love with on 'Yes Virginia' as it's an album that sums up everything The Dresden Dolls are all about: passion, intensity and unique sounds that are fused together in the light of some pretty challenging, autobiographical tales on Amanda's part. 'Yes Virginia' is quite a departure from the self titled debut for the fact that a lot of the tracks seem to have been more considered and take on taxing subject matters, such as abortion, to a greater extent.
Not without its faults but 'Yes Virginia', overall, is a truly remarkable album.
Length: 55.24 minutes
Buy at: Amazon.co.uk - £9.98 (eligible for free super saver delivery)
(Please note: this review is an adaptation of a review posted ages ago on Ciao by me. Thank you.)
This is the second full length Dolls' LP, where the music style seems to shift its focus from Wiemar-era Europe to Old time vaudeville USA.
Highlights are the saloon-like 'Mandy goes to Med School' and the short and sweet 'My Alcoholic Friends'.
The ballads on this album (namely 'Delilah' and 'Mrs O') are very emotional and well written and in my opinion surpass their equivalents on the Dolls self-titled predecessor.
Likewise, the modern and rock inspired tracks 'Shores of California' and 'Backstabber' are a great improvement and show how Amanda Palmer has developed in terms of writing fresh, contemporary melodies.
The only track that didn't catch me right away was 'modern moonlight' witch seemed a bit abrasive amongst the other more accessible tracks, but once you've heard it a few times and manage to work out what's going on, that too becomes another finely written song.
The instrumentation is again mainly piano and drums which complement each other perfectly as it becomes more apparent with each record how talented the artist are with their instrument.
Top tracks: 'My Alcoholic Friends' and 'Dirty Business'
The Dresden Dolls are a punk cabaret duo consisting of Amanda Palmer (singer and pianist) and Brian Viglione (drums). Amanda Palmer has a very unique voice, it is low and deep. You may at times mistaken it for a male voice. Her vocals are full of emotions and this can have a very powerful effect on the listener. Amanda Palmer's piano playing is frantic and furious. I have never heard anyone strike the keys with such power and emotions as she does. Brain's drumming is essential is almost grounds Amanda's playing but also gives it definition.
'Yes Virginia' is the Dresden Dolls second album and although I loved the first album the sequel is alot more experienced and formed. The album pushes the Dresden Dolls unique style further and swings them further outside the box. Virginia was a little girl who wrote into the newspaper asking whether Santa Claus existed. The newspaper writer replied 'Yes Virginia...' This sparked inspiration in the Dresden Dolls and formed the name of the album.
In this album, Amanda Palmer throws her lyrics out with pure emotion and angst. The album is powerful and fully charged. You wouldn't of thought that a pianist and drummer could play as fast and as furious but the Dresden Dolls will show you otherwise. The album is fully charged at times and sends you speeding through a journey of the imagination, crashing into the world of punk cabaret.
The album kicks straight in with 'Sex Changes', a song exploring the idea of a sex change. This is a classic subject matter addressed by the Dresden Dolls as they have a talent for expressing sexual realms. The song is fast paced and quirky, unlike anything you will ever know. The Dresden Dolls belong to a genre of their own. 'Mrs O' is another song to note as it directly deals with the story of the newspaper as mentioned above. It exposes and pushes the idea of hiding our children away from the bad things which are generally real and embracing them in the good things which are generally imaginative e.g. Santa Claus. As the song tells us 'The truth won't save you now'.
Overall, this is an album not to be missed. It is perception and emotion at it's rawest and it's purest. There is always something so grippingly real about this album and it's songs that stirs within you. This album will change your perspective on life.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Sex Changes
3 Modern Moonlight
4 My Alcoholic Friends
6 Dirty Business
7 First Orgasm
8 Mrs O
9 Shores Of California
10 Necessary Evil
11 Mandy Goes To Med School
12 Me And The Minibar