Who Killed Amanda Palmer
I currently have this album in three formats. I initially bought the CD. Then I found out there was a dvd of it and I bought that and finally I picked up the vinyl. I think the ideal format of it is actually the dvd. Amanda Palmer is such a compelling and charismatic performer that the rock video is the best vehicle for her music (aside from seeing her live.) I was lukewarm about her previous group, the Dresden Dolls until I saw the video for "Coin Operated Boy" which made me an instant fan. When I feel like hearing the Dolls I'm more likely to reach for one of their performance dvds than a CD. Even without the visual element though, this is still a terrific record. This was her debut record as a solo artist and it is consistent with the style and themes of her music with the Dresden Dolls, the big difference is the instrumentation which is a lot more elaborate with guitars, horns and strings adding color to the music. The music is still driven by Palmer's piano, but it is more powerful than any of the Dolls' records. Probably some of that can be credited to producer Ben Folds who knows something about making exciting music centered around a piano. This is a dark record, the most upbeat and funny song, "Oasis," features date rape and an abortion, so you can imagine what the rest of the record is like. There is no answer to the title question on the record, but if I were to hazard a guess, I'd say the killer was probably one of her exes, most likely the guy in "Ampersand" which is my favorite song on the album. It is an amazing song, very powerful musically with a passionate vocal from Palmer as she makes a feminist statement of freedom and eviscerates her crazy lover. That line about "eyes full of ketchup" is just brilliant. "Another Year: A Short History of Almost Something" is another tremendous song. I believe it is about fear of commitment, but it might as well be about suicide it is so gloomy. When I listen to it I feel like I'm at a funeral. Palmer sings her heart out, her vocal gives me chills. "Astronaut: A Short History of Nearly Nothing" gets the album off to a rousing start with its crashing piano chords and I love Zoe Keating sawing away on the cello throughout the song. I may be in the minority here, but I think a cello makes just about any pop song better. I believe the song is about a woman lamenting her astronaut lover's death although it also works as a song of neglected love. It would make a nice response to Bowie's "Space Oddity" telling the story of Major Tom's wife. "Strength Through Music" is about a kid on a shooting rampage, I find her ticking very unnerving. "Runs In the Family" is a cousin to the Dolls' "Girl Anachronism" as it explores hereditary illness both physical and mental, family shame and avoiding responsibility for one's actions. In "Leeds United" it sounds like Palmer is ragging on an English boyfriend. I like her husky, hoarse vocal and I'm pleasantly surprised by the effectiveness of the horns used to augment the song. "Blake Says" dissects another commitment-phobe boyfriend using references to Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground. This song features Keating on cello again as well as some nice synthesizer work from Ben Folds. Folds' synthesizer is also very prominent in "Guitar Hero" which showcases some guitar shredding from East Bay Ray of the Dead Kennedys. She criticizes video game addicts in this song. The cover of "What's the Use of Wond'rin" from the musical "Carousel" is largely sung by guest vocalist Annie Clark of St. Vincent. Palmer presumably included it as a statement of irony, since its stand-by-your-man message is contradicted by this entire record. With its music box-like chimes and Clark's almost mechanical vocal, it sounds like something out of a David Lynch movie, it makes Rodgers and Hammerstein seem creepy. I don't really get "Have to Drive" but I dig the strings and choir. I think it is using roadkill to make some points about escapism, escapism is a recurring theme on this record. It is evident in "The Point of It All" which is another one of my favorite songs on the record. The subject of the song is so withdrawn and depressed as to shut his or herself off from the world. I suppose the needle in the song could be a drug reference, but I prefer to think of it as a metaphor. I find this album endlessly fascinating. I don't think Palmer's music is confessional, but it is personal and intimate. Listening to this record is like having dinner with her or at least her persona anyway. She tells you things you don't normally hear on a pop record. I've been listening to this record repeatedly over the past couple of weeks trying to write this post, on top of all the times I listened to the CD when I first got it so I would guess I've heard it at least fifty times and it still sends me. I hear new stuff or pick up something new in the lyrics every time I play it. It is musically and lyrically complex and emotionally honest and expressive. Recommended for Tori Amos fans looking for something a little more edgy and ornery.