Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Amanda Palmer's Greatest Hits, #15 - 11

Theatre Is Evil!

#15. Truce
Dresden Dolls Album: The Dresden Dolls (2003)

I know when I'm wanted, I'll leave if you ask me to,
Mind my own business and speak when I'm spoken to.

A beautiful song should take you on a journey, make it known you’ve heard something special and make you hunger for more. The last song from The Dresden Dolls' debut album; ‘Truce’ does just that. It’s a ride through hope and despair, through utter sadness and desperation and like my favourite musical journeys, leaves you questioning at the end, wondering what just happened and what else could happen if…? Somehow Amanda Palmer manages, in eight and a half minutes, to wander through gloom and misery, rage and fury, right through exhaustion and straight back to land softly in quiet. Starting with a sense of subdued depression, just her voice and keys, she anxiously sings; "You can have Washington, I'll take New Jersey, you can have London but I want New York City", taking her audience places they may not be prepared to visit, through loneliness and seclusion, but it’s like an accident you can’t take your eyes off, once she’s taken you through “Africa, Asia, Australia” you can’t help but keep listening, wondering how much pain she can possibly convey in one song. It’s deliciously agonising after the strings chime in, then the lyric; “just say we were lovers and we'll call it even”, and, although this is an Amanda Palmer countdown, it can't be left unsaid, Amanda's fellow Dresden Doll, Brian Viglione is an incredible drummer, his talent shown off in this track, his manic pounding and off-beat drumming perfectly matching the sense of urgency and passion in Amanda's keys and voice. Her lyrics leave you wondering exactly what she means, but her emotion is so captivating the actual words are almost irrelevant. Having said that, only Amanda Palmer can take you and gently whisper in your ear, then scream in your face within the same minute and still make you feel somehow comfortable at the end, leaving you questioning what just happened, where you’ve just been and why it hurt so much; but in her beautiful style, making you desperately want to visit again. (Jo Michelmore)

#14. Runs in the Family
Album: Who Killed Amanda Palmer? (2008)

I say it runs in the family, this family that carries me to such great lengths,
To open my legs up to anyone who'll have me.

Manic, rushed, chaotic and with a couple of important messages to boot, 'Runs in the Family' is one of the most excellent tracks on Palmer's solo debut. It clocks in at just under three minutes, but feels like it's over in thirty seconds with the pace that Amanda manages to maintain, almost as if without the need to take a breath. There are a couple of points you can take from 'Runs in the Family.' The first is the current need trend of diagnosing anything a parent can deem as wrong with a child as a disorder of some sort. Mental, behavioural... everyone's got something and everyone is on something for it. Palmer works her lyrical magic in funny and relevant lines like, "my friend's depressed, she's a wreck, she's a mess, they've done all sorts of tests and they guess it has something to do with her grandmother's, grandfather's, grandfather's civil war soldier's who badly infected him." Clearly there's an obvious reason as to why we're all crazy. Like civil war soldier's. Yep. There's also the notion that when you look around at everyone else's 'problems,' it's only natural to look within oneself. Are there genetic faults lying dormant within each of us just waiting to come out? I'd rather not think about that. I'm just going to enjoy the epic buildup to all of the things we can run from in our lives; "run from their pity, from responsibility, run from the country and run from the city, I can run from the law, I can run from myself, I can run from my life, I can run into debt, I can run from it all, I can run till I'm gone, I can run for the office and run for the cause, I can run using every last ounce of energy, I cannot, I cannot, I cannot run from my family." (Matt Bond)
#13. Backstabber
Dresden Dolls Album: Yes, Virginia (2006)

You always struck me as the type to take it lightly,
But now you're gonna have to shut your mouth or fight me...
I think Amanda Palmer has a lot of friends. I think she may have a few enemies too. I think she’s got a lot of enemies who wish they were friends and maybe some friends who wish they were enemies, just so she’d write a song like this about them. If I was an enemy of Amanda Palmer and she wrote a song like this about me, I’d be in a state of complete confusion. Like, I’d want to hate her because I’d be her mortal enemy and arch rival, but then I’d want to love her because she’s such a good songwriter and how could I hate someone who wrote such a catchy song, especially if it was about me? However, if I was a hardened enemy, maybe I’d be a little scared, because Amanda Palmer is probably not someone you want to dislike you; “now you’re gonna have to shut your mouth or fight me”, yeah, she’s not someone I’d love to fight. This song is quick and catchy and yet again The Dresden Dolls do their magical thing where they get so much sound and richness from so few instruments, the piano so clear and solid, Brian’s drumming matching perfectly. Amanda’s voice, conveying an immense amount of intensity, is strong and so clear, she manages to express intense anger and then, the ultimate insult to her enemies, absolute pity; “backstabber, hope grabber, greedy little fit haver, god, I feel for you, fool”. It’s a sweet revenge song, a slap in the face to whomever it was written for, but ultimately it’s a perfect sing along pop song, her voice resonating in your ears long after the song is over, repeating again and again “backstabber, backstabber, backstabber, backstabber…” Yep, I think I’ve decided, I’d rather be friend or fan than her enemy, even if she was to write a catchy song about me, after all, I’d rather sing along than run away. On a slight side note, in this song she sings one of my favourite, amusing Dresden Doll lyrics; “so don’t tell me what to write and don’t tell me that I’m wrong and don’t tell me not to reference my songs within my songs”, yeah Amanda, that’ll tell them! (Jo Michelmore)

#12. Leeds United
Album: Who Killed Amanda Palmer? (2008)

And who needs love at all?

'Leeds United' is one of the rare songs written by Amanda Palmer where I just have to admit I have no idea what's going on. Apparently it's about her failed relationship with Ricky Wilson from the Kaiser Chiefs. Ok. There you go, that's what this song's about. If we pretend we didn't know that random piece of information, we can hopefully collectively agree that this is the funnest track in Palmer's solo catalogue (expect something to top this on the new album Theatre Is Evil). It's got big singalong moments, pop sensibilities (eg. random lyrics you don't understand, but they sure are fun to shout out loud) and a perfectly complimentary video. That music video is just ace, the best Dresden Dolls/Amanda Palmer/Evelyn Evelyn video out there. Except for maybe Palmer's cover of 'Polly.' Check that out for your fright of the day. I will point out that there is one piece of incredibly memorable songwriting. Before the chorus, when Amanda sings, "but who needs love when there's Law and Order, and who needs love when there's Southern Comfort [Dukes of Hazzard], and who needs love at all," is pretty touching, but you sometimes miss the impact of it because of the upbeat nature of the song. That's probably a good thing. Not every song needs to be a total downer. (Matt Bond)

#11. Astronaut: A Short History of Nearly Nothing
Album: Who Killed Amanda Palmer? (2008)

And is it getting harder to pretend,
That life goes on without you in the wake?

Now, I don't know what it's like to be in a relationship with a drug addict (or, conversely, be a drug addict), but I'm fairly confident in my belief that it would suck. I've seen all the movies about the perils of addiction; Candy, Requiem for a Dream, Trainspotting, Traffic, etcetera, etcetera. Things don't tend to end well. Especially in Requiem for a Dream. Poor, poor Jennifer Connelly. Over all of those films, I'd use the song 'Astronaut' as my major piece of evidence as to why you don't get involved with a junkie. Some would just say, "um, Courtney Love." I say 'Astronaut.' I  even say it with the knowledge that addiction is not the central theme of the piece. We've said it a couple of times already, but the way Amanda Palmer writes her stories leaves just the right amount of interpretation up to each individual listener. When I listen to a line like, "and I am still not getting what I want, I want to touch the back of your right arm," I hear a reference to track marks. The title's astronaut, flying in the face of science? A person getting high, spaced out... all that drug lingo I'm not down with. The tragic nature of the relationship appears throughout. "I will gladly stay an afterthought, just bring back some nice reminders." Our narrator puts her own needs on the backburner, despite her unhappiness, unable to give up on her love. Or... TWIST... does the narrator simply not care because of her own decent into drug dependency? "I wish you could remind me who I was, because every day I'm a little further off," and the final dwelling point of, "and you may be acquainted with the night, but I have seen the darkness in the day, and you must know it is a terrifying sight, because you and I are living the same way," certainly work in favour of that argument. Like I said, the song has nothing to do with addiction at all, in the sense of drugs, but it's what I take from this awesome AFP track. (Matt Bond)

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