Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Amanda Palmer's Greatest Hits, #5 - 1

#5. Coin-Operated Boy
Dresden Dolls Album: The Dresden Dolls (2003)

I will never cry at night again,
Wrap my arms around him and pretend. 

Ah, the signature song. 'Coin-Operated Boy' is The Dresden Dolls' 'Livin' On A Prayer.' Their 'Dancing Queen,' or 'Smells Like Teen Spirit.' The song is the definition of the dark cabaret music the Dolls popularised in the first half of the 2000s, sinister chords and all. It's overly theatrical with as much emphasis placed on the performance as the lyrics. If you've seen 'Coin-Operated Boy' live you'd agree with me that it's one of the most fun and engaging songs you've ever witnessed. Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione are perfectly in sync, especially during the super-extended live, "I. WANT. A. I WANT. A. I WANT A," segment. Seemingly upbeat, it stands out amongst the other tracks on The Dresden Dolls, but it's far from a happy song. This is Amanda Palmer people. You should know better! There's a subtle change in Palmer's voice towards the end that notes her realisation that maybe, "love without complications galore," means not having real love at all. Less subtle is her arrival at this conclusion in her mind in the video. It could also be about a dildo... but that's boring. (Matt Bond)   

#4. In My Mind
Album: Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under (2011)

I am exactly the person that I want to be.

You should have worked out by now; Amanda Palmer is an exceptionally talented woman of many moods. She's fun, she's hilarious, she's quirky, she's incredibly intelligent and sometimes, especially in songs like this, she's so wise. See, there’s a secret the adults keep from you when you’re a child. I’m still waiting for someone to tell me, but figuring it out day by day. Growing up is hard. It’s heaps of fun and it’s incredible but if you want to do it well, it’s hard. Amanda Palmer knows that and luckily for her fans, she has the ability as a songwriter to tell it like it is. In My Mind is a song that I fell in love with instantly, from the very first listen. With every note from that sweet ukulele, with every lyric she sings, she hands over a little gift. It’s almost like she’s written a letter to herself and then given it away for everyone to read, her deepest secrets proving just how awesome she is. Fellow Dresden Doll Brian Viglione adds his beautiful skills on the drums, which creates a familiar feeling that can’t quite be explained, it’s like a dose of reality and a comforting embrace all at once, completely bittersweet and totally heartfelt. It’s something you need to hear, rather than read about. This song is something you can’t get in the self-help section of a bookstore or from the TV, but its pop music counseling at its very best. Every now and then someone like Amanda Palmer comes along and gives the world a reminder of just how good music can be; it can be fun, it can be fast, it can be hilarious or heartbreaking and sometimes it can be exactly what you need, without ever knowing you needed it. “…maybe it's funniest of all to think I'll die before I actually see that I am exactly the person that I want to be.” Whoever you are Amanda, you’re amazing. (Jo Michelmore)

#3. Ampersand
Album: Who Killed Amanda Palmer? (2008)

And I may be romantic, And I may risk my life for it,
But I ain't gonna die for you, You know I ain't no Juliet. 

This is a song about identity. More accurately, 'Ampersand' is a song about its author not wishing to lose her identity. There's this wacky notion that to be with someone, you have to sacrifice so much of yourself to make a relationship work. It's crazy. It leads to unhappiness and it's why so many relationships fail. Palmer makes it very clear that she's not, "going to live her life, one side of an ampersand." She's not just 'the girlfriend' or the '& Amanda.' She doesn't want her whole life planned out. His and hers matching headstones? No thanks, that's not her thing. She wants to be with someone that will love and accept her for who she is, not for who they want her to be; "And I'm not gonna match you, 'Cause I'll lose my voice completely." The challenge to love as defined in Romeo & Juliet is a wonderful piece of songwriting, providing my favourite Palmer-penned lyric (as seen above). In the lead up to that, we get the story about a spurned lover that chooses to go down the, 'if I can't have you, no one can' route and burn down Amanda's apartment block. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be too keen on being with anyone ever again if that happened to me either. (Matt Bond)         

#2. Sing
Dresden Dolls Album: Yes, Virginia... (2006)

There is this thing that's like talking except you don't talk,
You sing... You sing. 

Some songs are more than just songs. They’re better friends than you’ll ever meet, they know you, inside and out, they get you and you in turn get them. They take your heart, rip it out and hold it gently beating in their chords. They become entwined with every part of your life and like the greatest of loves; you can’t imagine yourself ever having been without them. From the first time I heard this song, I wondered how it knew so much about me. It must have been there, when I was a tiny girl, dreaming my days away. As a teenager, at the top of my lungs, in front of the teachers who told me I couldn’t, this song had to have been there, how would it know? It’s always on the dance floor and it was certainly there at band rehearsal watching from the corner. Through the hardest of sobs and the widest of smiles, it was constantly there, lingering beside with the closest friend I’ll ever have known. It’s definitely there, in the very front row, in the very back row, in the very same room, in the same key as some of my musical idols. I know it's there in tiny little rooms with microphones and some of the most beautiful people in the world. It hangs around on long, long drives with the windows down and in the arms of strangers in the strangest of places. In the middle of the night, alone with my thoughts, it’s always there wrapping itself around me. One little song, but its subject matter has seen me through the greatest and worst moments of my life. I don’t do it well, but without it, I am nothing. Some songs are more than just songs. Some songs somehow define you. “There is thing that's like talking except you don't talk. You sing. You sing.” (Jo Michelmore)

#1. Boston
Dresden Dolls Album: No, Virginia... (2008)

New York will still be there in the morning,
Come back to bed, my darling.

Amanda Palmer; brilliant songwriter, outstanding performer, artist. There's so many aspects of the woman that should separate her from us mere mortals. The truth is, thankfully, that Palmer makes music you can relate to. Music that manages to tell her story and yours. You can listen to so many of her tracks and find yourself having to stop for a minute to relish the fact that someone else has the same thoughts you do. You can sympathize with her when she sings about something awful, you can smile at the fleeting moments of joy. This isn't fantasies about 'teenage dreams,' party rocking or whatever Jennifer Lopez is singing about on 'On The Floor.' I think it's about dancing, but it could be about la-la-la-ing. Amanda Palmer writes and sings songs with a whole lot more depth to them. She writes and sings songs that everyone can relate to, especially when the theme is love. The Dresden Dolls' song 'Boston' is one of the most heartbreaking love songs you're likely to ever hear. Set on a couple's final night, it deals with accepting the end, embracing those last moments and living in the 'now.' "And tomorrow you can totally erase me from your mind, no really, everything is fine." I'm a big fan of long songs that maximise every second and there isn't a moment of the over seven minute 'Boston' you can say is wasted. The growing realisation that time is running out builds and builds until the final time Palmer beckons her love to, "come back to bed, my darling," pretty much tearing my heart in two each time I hear it. Then, with no time to catch your breath and in typical AFP fashion, she slaps you in the face with the lines, "there is nothing in the world that we can count on, Even that we will wake up is an assumption." It's a showstopping moment, one that I'll never forget and a line that leaves you with so much to think about. So that's the lesson of the song; live in the 'now' because who knows what tomorrow's going to bring. Amanda Palmer seems to do a pretty good job of it. I think I might give it a go. Who's with me? (Matt Bond)

Another countdown comes to an end. Don't forget, Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra's album, Theatre Is Evil, is out September! They've just released the incredible video for the single 'Want It Back' too. Want to watch it... look below!


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