The Dresden Dolls: Amanda Palmer (vocals, piano); Brian Viglione (drums).
Inevitably, music will have leaders as well as followers, and both have their place. It's unrealistic and foolish to think that every artist who comes along should be a trendsetter; people who shake things up as intensely as Charlie Parker, the Sex Pistols, John Coltrane, the Beatles, or Nirvana are the exception instead of the rule. But when someone does come up with something that is truly fresh, he/she deserves applause -- and there is plenty of freshness on this self-titled CD by the Dresden Dolls, a Boston-based duo that successfully blends alternative pop/rock with German cabaret. Lead singer Amanda Palmer brings an unlikely combination of influences to this release, and they range from Kurt Weill and Marlene Dietrich to goth rock, punk, and the riot grrrl movement. Palmer has been greatly affected by the emotional catharsis of PJ Harvey, Courtney Love, and Tori Amos -- her performances can be very stream-of-consciousness -- but she has also been influenced by the cabaret of Germany's pre-Adolf Hitler Weimar Republic (although Palmer writes and sings in English exclusively on this album). Hitler, a fanatically extreme social conservative, detested the flamboyant, sexualized imagery of the Weimar-era cabaret culture and did everything he could to eradicate it. But when Marlene Dietrich and others fled Nazi Germany, they took their cabaret with them -- and that Weimar-era influence is all over this intriguing CD. Not only has it affected Palmer's darkly theatrical melodies, but also, Palmer and drummer Brian Viglione (the Dresden Dolls' other half) sport a look that is part goth and part Weimar-era burlesque. And much to their credit, the Dresden Dolls make their unorthodox alt-rock/cabaret blend sound perfectly natural rather than forced. This CD is enthusiastically recommended to anyone who is seeking something fresh from alternative pop/rock. ~ Alex Henderson
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