The Dresden Dolls – Half Jack
This week I make the unprecedented decision to post two songs, simultaneously claiming the title of The Best Song in the World Right Now. I haven’t been listening to the Dresden Dolls for long, and that is the case largely because of their aesthetic. One look at the videos users have attached to the songs will tell you why.
It’s not that I have anything against the gothic aesthetic in general. It’s pretty much whatever. But there’s something unabashedly self-conscious about all kinds of ‘dark’ imagery, like the swaddled dolls and monochrome ladies holding roses like they’re just thinking about something – something sad. It suffers from the same misapprehension about art that makes most people write their first poetry about their feelings: and I mean just describing them. In metaphors.
Which is why it’s a pleasure to find that this is pretty absent in the music. Amanda Palmer’s lyrics are witty, solid and surprising, delivered with self-regardless verve. I hate being tempted, ever, to write the word ‘duo’, but you know, there’s two of them. And they work well together (though not quite as well as these two).
Brian Viglione’s drums force the whole piano rock thing to work. The pace and energy of the songs are compelling and the shifts and changes are artful and unexpected. Palmer is a talented singer, and moves between registers effortlessly. She told one interviewer that her voice sometimes ‘goes from a childlike whisper to a banshee scream within a few seconds’. Yes it does, Amanda. Yes it does. It’s pretty magical when it happens, actually.
In trademark wry self-satire, they define their genre as ‘Brechtian punk cabaret’, and the application of the ‘beauty of flaw’ punk flavouring saves them from moments where the music becomes affected or twee, such as in ‘Coin Operated Boy’, which is okay but not so much worth the YouTube search.
I only have their self-titled debut album at present, but I’ll be, er, obtaining Yes, Virginia…, their second, when I’m in a country where the internet isn’t 300 rupees per gigabyte.
I couldn’t decide between these two songs, so here’s the other one. They both end pretty fantastically, too.
The Dresden Dolls – Good Day