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Dresden Dolls


Country of origin:

U.S.

Type of music generally:

Brecthian punk they say themselves (Alternative cabaret? Evocative/eclectic altpop?)

Status:

Most recent release, No, Virginia (compilation, 2008); most recent main release, Yes Virginia (2006)

See also:

Dresden Dolls' site

The Ectophiles' Guide's entry for Amanda Palmer's solo work

Comparisons:

Tori Amos, Lene Lovich, Jill Tracy

Covers/own material:

Own, occasional covers

General comments:

Dresden Dolls come close to true originality. Their piano/drums lineup adds to their appeal. Singer Amanda Palmer projects her intense tales across some startling melodies and Brian Vigilone's drums are rock solid. (stjarnell@yahoo.com)

Dresden Dolls is Amanda Palmer on piano, and her guitarist/drummer. When I finally got to see them live I was blown away and had trouble catching my breath or thinking about anything else for the next hour. (cos@leftbank.com)

Speaking of music that's frightening in a deliciously wonderful way ... :) I highly recommend them to anyone who likes music that falls into the dissonant/wonderfully weird category, with occasional veers into the "difficult listening" range. Amanda Palmer knows bitter break-up songs. Which makes me feel for her, but some great music comes out of her pain. :} (meth@smoe.org)

The Dolls are probably my favorite discovery of recent years. I'm blessed to live in Boston, so I've had a chance to see them play live a bunch of times. They're a hugely fun band to see live, since they're very animated, and also amazingly talented... (jeffw@smoe.org)

Comments about live performance:

I was blown away, jaw-dropping dumbfounded. My emotional reaction to her performance was more similar to my emotional reaction to the first Veda Hille performance I saw, than anything else. It had that same kind of flavor to it. Trauma and beauty intertwined, darkness that's not necessarily in the minor keys, sudden jumps and jolts from cute to thunderous to sweet to sharp to gothic to crashing to delicacy to abyss.
     I haven't had this strong a reaction to a new (to me) musician in 14 months [14 months ago, to the day, was when I first saw Molly Zenobia play]. It's going to take me a while to come down off the effects of seeing this show. After it was over I was temporarily spoiled for music, craving only to listen to things of the same level of power. (11/01, cos@leftbank.com)

It was one of the best live shows we've seen this year. Imagine Kristeen Young and Veda Hille's musical love twins. Or what would happen if you opened up a music box in hell. They describe themselves as "Brechtian punk cabaret", which I suppose sums it up about as well as can be.
     Amanda plays piano and sings (she has doctored the logo on her Kurtzweil SP-88 so it says "KURTWEILL"), and Brian plays drums and provides occasional backing vocals. That's the group, and the amount of sound the two of them can produce is truly impressive. Amanda is an accomplished pianist, and her voice is quite powerful, sounding remarkably like Fiona Apple at times. Brian is an incredible drummer—he makes it look effortless, and gets an amazing dynamic range out of his kit. The subject matter of the songs is sometimes quite disturbing, yet also quite witty (for example the brilliant tune "Coin Operated Boy"). On top of this, they perform in costume—Brian is done up like the emcee from Cabaret, complete with white facepaint and mime-like makeup topped off by a black bowler hat, and Amanda wears a little black cocktail dress with striped stockings held up by garters, and similar face makeup.
     If they're playing anywhere near you, *go*. It's worth it, trust me. (12/03)
     Last night a bunch of us saw the Dresden Dolls at Maxwell's in Hoboken, NJ.
     The capsule review: Best...Dolls...show...EVER :)
     The show was amazing. I don't remember the exact set list, but I know the show started as always with "Good Day", then they went right into "Backstabber", which is always a highlight. But the deal was sealed when they did not only "Pierre" (their wonderful setting of the Maurice Sendak tale to music) but also Jacques Brel's "Amsterdam", that last during the first encore.
     Then for the second encore, they came out and did another song with Brian playing guitar and Amanda singing (I can't remember the name of it though), and then in response to a few requests shouted from the back of the room, actually did "War Pigs". Yes, the Black Sabbath song. Complete with a wonderful vintage DD extended piano-drums intro, and including several incredible drumming moments on Brian's part. He is truly one of the top three drummers I have ever seen, right up there with David Narcizio and Bill Bruford.
     They put on one of the best live shows of anyone out there today, hands down. (6/04, meth@smoe.org)

I strongly urge you to go check them out if they're playing in your area, as their live shows are really amazing. (3/04, mcurry@io.com)

Recommended first album:

Dresden Dolls or Yes Virginia

Recordings:


A is for Accident

Release info:

2003—Important Records—imprec 015

Availability:

Out of print

Ecto priority:

For fans of the band

Group members:

Amanda Palmer—piano, organ, vocals
Brian Viglione—drums

Guest artists:

Meredith Yayanos—violins on track 9
Ad Frank—guitar on track 11
Shawn Sutaro—bass on 11

Comments:

A random collection of live recordings, demos and album outtakes. It's pretty nice mostly but hardly essential. The way Amanda can barely deliver "Coin Operated Boy" without starting to laugh is fun. The ramshackle take on "Stand by your man" is reasonably interesting. But the debut is where you should start. (stjarnell@yahoo.com)

A must for fans, if only for the song "Christopher Lydon" which isn't on either of their studio albums. It gets a little bogged down in tracks 6-9, but there are excellent versions of "Coin-Operated Boy, "Missed Me," and "Truce," and I actually slightly prefer the version of "Yes, Virginia" here. "The Time Has Come" is another good song not available anywhere else. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Dresden Dolls

Release info:

2003—8 ft Record—8ft.00

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Amanda Palmer—piano, vocals
Brian Viglione—drums

Produced by:

Martin Bisi

Comments:

A perfect first album. Amanda Palmer's an intense presence on her piano and vocals. The quirky yet mournful "Coin operated Boy" was almost a hit. The pop sensibility on "Jeep Song" is neatly balanced by the all-out angst of other tracks. The cabaret is smoldering and debased by the punk tempo. The band's first sees them refining and honing their trademark sound and making a bold statement. stunning. a beautiful and fierce classic. not a bad song and fans of kristeen will dig this. the best of the year by far. (stjarnell@yahoo.com)

... probably my favorite album this year. (onealien@mo.himolde.no)

One of my top ten of the year. Several have written better than me, they are extraordinary! raven@igc.org)

This might be my favourite album of the year. The sounds are much what I expected—fun theatrical cabaret-ish punkish—but the album is also more catchy and emotional than I expected.
     Songs like 'Girl Anachronism' first grabbed me, burbling over with clever lyrics (yey, Edward Gorey reference!), and 'Coin-operated boy' is so catchy and hummable, but even that one drops the painted face-mask and goes with honesty in the bridge ("this bridge was written to make you feel smittener..."). Soon my favourites were "Half Jack", quiet through angry, and 'Bad Habit' (on the bouncy, chirpy side of Throwing Muses' 'Delicate Cutters' when it comes to self-mutilation songs, but, then, most things are). (k_hester_k@yahoo.co.nz)


Yes Virginia

Release info:

2006—Roadrunner Records—RR 8801-5

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Amanda Palmer—piano, vocals
Brian Viglione—drums, vocals, guitar, bass

Guest artists:

Whitney Moses, Mali Sastri, Holly Brewer, vocals on "Delilah" and "Sing", Mat McNiss

Produced by:

Sean Slade and Paul Q Kolderie

Comments:

An equally perfect follow-up. Palmer's tales bite harder and her songs are just as catchy and deep as last time. The intensity and playfulness allows her to describe sex, madness and the whole shebang of being human with wit and irreverence. Her take on the post-punk cabaret thing that others have attempted to follow remains unequalled. Pity they didn't include their live cover of "War Pigs" but other than that it's flawless. i'd recommend it to almost anyone. (stjarnell@yahoo.com)

One of my top ten of the year. (raven@igc.org)

thumbs up from me! it's a lot more raw and direct than the last record and captures more of their live show rock feel than thecabaret feel of the last album. i still don't think their studio efforts match their performances but yes, virginia... gets a lot closer than the self-titled effort.
     "backstabber" is one of the best songs on the new record (in my opinion) and has been a favorite since i first heard it live a few years ago! (woj@smoe.org)

I was trying to figure out what the difference is between Yes, Virginia and their debut, and I think Woj hit it when he said it was more rock than cabaret and more like their live shows. But I also think the songs are less story-songs, and that's part of it. Anyway, it only took about 2 listens for me to absolutely love it. Definitely one of my favorites of 2006. (JoAnn Whetsell)


No, Virginia

Release info:

2008—Roadrunner Records—1686-179262

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for Dresden Dolls fans

Group members:

Amanda Palmer—vocals, piano, keyboard, organ; key-pressing (8)
Brian Viglione—drums, vocals, electric bass, percussion; blowing air into melodic (8)

Guest artists:

Sean Slade—mellotron (4); organ (10)
Greg Disterhoft—electric guitar (3)
Jim Smith—bass (3)

Produced by:

Sean Slade (all); The Dresden Dolls (3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11); Paul Q. Kolderie (5, 6, 9, 11)

Comments:

The first Dresden Dolls release that doesn't excite me. Loved the first odds'n'sods, A is for accident. I like 'The gardener' but find it more frightening live. Much of 'The kill', 'Boston' and especially 'Sheep song' are gorgeous and sad Amanda numbers. Not so keen on the band numbers. 'Pretty in pink' is only amusing the first time. Amanda's voice sounds sore and raw. Was disturbed that the word 'tampons' was censored in the 'Night reconnaissance video, but then realized it was 'tampax' so guess it was a trademark issue rather than overly-delicate sensibilities. This collection is not their strongest, which is to be expected of a collection of odds and sods, but sad way for a band to end. (k_hester_k@yahoo.co.nz)

I'm really enjoying this collection. Well, except for the "Pretty in Pink" cover; I could have done without that. But overall it's really strong. Some of the songs would have fit perfectly on Yes Virginia, but that album is great as is, so it's hard to argue for changing it. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Further info:

The Dresden Dolls released two live DVDs, Paradise (2005) and Live at the Roundhouse (2007). A songbook, The Dresden Dolls Songbook, was released in 2006.


Thanks to JoAnn Whetsell and stjarnell@yahoo.com for work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2011-01-18 21:07:42.
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