Oft-controversial Dresden Dolls front-woman Amanda Palmer recently released her anticipated sophomore solo release “Theatre is Evil” with the backing of Grand Theft Orchestra. The collaboration is called, you guessed it, “Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra.” Palmer, widely known for use of internet and social media to connect with fans, recruited fans for a Kickstarter campaign to record “Theatre is Evil,” receiving a whopping $1,192,793 in funds.
“Theatre is Evil” maintains the catchy macabre witchery present since the Dresden Dolls and throughout her solo career. Sometimes straddling the line of childish lyricism and simplistic subject matter, it ultimately charms the listener and works in the album’s favor. The music, despite the backing of Grand Theft Orchestra, retains the vocally directed style of Palmer’s body of work. The bare-bones composition is a fascinating facet of “Theatre is Evil,” which is rarely over-orchestrated. The band’s tenors, comprised of Jherek Bischoff, Chad Raines, and Michael McQuilken, caress the energetic nature of her voice pleasantly.
The lyrics and subject matter are simple and easily summarized by the song titles, ie “the Killing Type,” “Grown Man Cry.” This does not however detract from the enjoyability factor of the tracks or the effectiveness of the message. Palmer’s voice is dark, slightly operatic, and expansive. What she lacks in lyricism she honestly retains in energy. The album has a dark cabaret-like aesthetic, with often creepy lilting undertones thanks to the Grand Theft Orchestra. Her voice is so far-flung and rambling that the album tends to almost be consumed by a mantra like quality, aided and also panicked by incessant piano notes. The tracks are catchy, darkly saccharine (think opium-laced candy), and powerful.
“A Grand Theft Intermission,” exactly what the title implies, is a refreshing track, breaking from the manta-esque quality of the vocals. Instead the orchestra graces us with tenuous, machaivillian instrumentation that is ceaseless, recurring, and equally panicked, matching the rest of the album conceptually.
Overall it isn’t an exhaustible album, good for multiple listens throughout years to come–when it will be found, in the form of unmarked CD, on the floor of the car you’re cleaning. It will inevitably find its way back periodically into the 6 CD changer rotation of your vehicle until it scratches. That is, at least, the prediction of my own behavior. I’m unsure whether other functioning human beings are similarly still on the CD standard. “Theatre is Evil” is, ultimately, not simply a trendy album-of-the-month as so often music can be, but an album that can withstand the test of time in both artistry and sing-along-ness. (Sing-along-ness is a thing.)