Dresden Dolls | Feminist Music
Doll-sized infobytes on the Dresden Dolls:
* The Dresden Dolls sometimes pose naked with each other for band art shots
* They once held a competition where you could win band tickets if you sent a photo of yourself posed as a painted living statue outside of any police station
* They stick hate mail and bad press as well as fan letters and good press on their website. Brave!
* Amanda Palmer sometimes pencils in her eyebrows as she performs live on stage
* Trent Reznor from NIN loves them
Who the hell are the Dresden Dolls?
The bio on the Dresden Dolls official site quite rightly says that the Dresden Dolls continue to defy explanation and classification. While some have called it theatrical rock, punk cabaret, manic-musical, neo-glam-torch… and other combinations of words… but eventually even the most clever and creative describers shrug and say: “You just have to hear it to believe it.”
The Dresden Dolls are a two-person combo featuring Amanda Palmer (who has a background in New Wave and musical theatre, and sings and writes lyrics and plays piano) and Brian Viglione, (the drummer/vocalist with a Heavy Metal background). This fusion of styles has created a sound where every song is different, with a bit of howling, a bit of sleaze, a bit of old dirty ballroom, a bit of Victorian music hall… it’s different-rock.
Although their music is very different to the White Stripes, they are comparable in that they are a groundbreaking rock duo who have built a very intimate and unusual musical world full of private dreams, but make you feel welcome in entering their world.
As an example of how dark their humour can go, “Mandy Goes To Med School” finds Amanda Palmer imagining a scenario in which she and Viglione play a lighthearted and childish game of let’s-pretend-we’re-back-alley-abortionists. The music and lyrics are often bruised and beautiful, but with a strong edge created by harsh treatment of piano (think a punchy Tori Amos) and good strong drums. This music is no soft fairy stuff though, in spite of its prettiness – Amanda snarls and growls and cackles, and sounds like she smokes cigarettes like a soldier.
Okay, so who are these talented urchins?
“When I was 9 I started making up full songs. Songs about drugs (which I wouldn’t try for many years to come), boys (with whom I also had limited success), and the illusions of reality (think: what a clever young 9-year-old!)”
“When I was about 10, I wrote my first musical. It was about four suburban girls who decided they were fundamentally misunderstood. They joined forces and gathered money and sleeping bags and hit the big city. Ihey found an alley and built a shack out of cardboard beer boxes and scrapwood. The rest of the plot is fuzzy, but i think they end up realizing that the fifty bucks they had stolen from their respective parents wouldn’t buy more than a week’s worth of provisions and returned, defeated, to the woes of suburban life.”
On Christmas Day, 1983, Brian Viglione was given a set of ‘Muppet Show’ drums by his proud father. Brian found the most pleasurable of all sounds came from puncturing the bass drum head with sewing needles and paper clips. Bands like Kiss, Skid Row, Motley Crue, Aerosmith and Guns’n’Roses infused his soul, then he got into punk, then Nick Cave, Swans, Diamanda Galas and other lovely dark sounds.
Then he met Amanda Palmer playing piano at a Halloween party. “She was grimacing and POUNDING on the piano keys, when I listened to how the lyrics and the eerie melodies she was evoking from the piano came flowing out onto everyone listening with these floods of emotion and angst, I thought, ‘Ohhh yeahhh, I have GOT to play music with this freak…’ It was such a tremendous feeling. I knew I had found some kind of kindred spirit.”
Photos: Jeff Wasilko, Evil Numen, James Patrick Cooper, Kelly Davidson