Amanda Palmer - Who Killed Amanda Palmer (Cover Artwork)

Amanda Palmer

Amanda Palmer: Who Killed Amanda PalmerWho Killed Amanda Palmer (2008)
Roadrunner Records

Reviewer Rating: 3.5
User Rating:

Contributed by: Dante3000Dante3000
(others by this writer | submit your own)

Amanda Palmer is probably best (or only) known as the frontwoman/pianist for the punk-cabaret-whatever group the Dresden Dolls. Through the band's two Roadrunner Records releases, Amanda has crafted out a voice and image for the Dresden Dolls. This leads to the obvious question: Why the need for a s.
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Amanda Palmer is probably best (or only) known as the frontwoman/pianist for the punk-cabaret-whatever group the Dresden Dolls. Through the band's two Roadrunner Records releases, Amanda has crafted out a voice and image for the Dresden Dolls. This leads to the obvious question: Why the need for a solo album? Was that drummer taking up too much stage? The reason was that originally Who Killed Amanda Palmer was meant to be a simple solo album, filled with tracks that Amanda had not placed drums with and recorded simply and inexpensively. That all changed (for better or worse) when Amanda was contacted by the man who would ultimately produce the album, Ben Folds. With Folds' input and assistance, the album quickly grew to orchestral proportions and took over a year to record in various states and was mastered four times before it was finally released.

Despite the Herculean effort this album took to release, many detractors will still ask what the difference is between this and a regular Dresden Dolls album. This difference comes in two distinct levels. The first, and more obvious, is the expanded instrumentation. Where the duet's last album, Yes Virgina, was very much stripped down to piano and drums, Who Killed stretches its legs musically with guitars, horns, synthesizers and pretty much anything Ben Folds could cram into a recording booth. There's many times this works to the album's advantage. The track "Runs in the Family" runs at a feverish march and as it reaches its zenith, a high-pitched tone comes in, increasing the frantic nature of the song to the point you can feel the tension and panic in the song. The horn section on "Leeds United" keeps the song bouncing along and brings it up to a level that piano and drums would not be able to reach on their own. Though it's not always to the albums benefit, when it works, the expanded instrumentation effectively accents the moods of a very emotional album.

The less obvious differentiation from Dresden Dolls albums is the lack of what Amanda would describe as "aggro" music, or the typically darker, angrier and more confrontational songs in the Dresden Dolls catalog. Gone are tracks like "Half Jack," "Missed Me" and (to a lesser degree) "Modern Moonlight," which sprinkled the first two albums with a dark sense of confrontation and anger. The closest you find to them on Who Killed is "Guitar Hero," which is a far cry from the ranting and screaming of "Half Jack." Instead Who Killed is filled with songs that embody the frustration, confusion and sadness that fans have associated with the band but without the outward anger. A fine example is "Runs in the Family," which deals with a common theme in Dresden Dolls albums -- family upbringing and the slew of long-term issues it can cause. While the song contains the frantic confusion of previous works, it lacks the dark anger that has made previous works so emotion but ultimately uneven and difficult on repeat listens.

The main piece of criticism for the album would be encapsulated with the phrase, "Self-aware does not equal good." This is never more evident than in the back-to-back bombs of "What's the Use of Wond'rin'?" and "Oasis." "What's the Use of Wond'rin'?" is originally from from Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Carousel." Though I've never seen the original, it seems like the kind of song you'd see a mom or nanny or mother figure sing to a group of young girls who are confused about boys or who really want to get married. A few times in the song you hear just enough of the crack of Amanda's recognizable vocals to get the meaning, as if she's pushing through a fake porcelain facade. Still, the song itself is boring and generally unlistenable. "Oasis" is likely to be considered fair more offensive as it takes subjects like rape, abortion and general sexual assault and slaps them to a jaunty piano melody and crafts a little pop diddy. More offensive than the content is the horrid execution. Self-aware or not Amanda has always managed to get the emotion she's trying to convey in a song, whether it's anger, sadness, joy or fear. Taking a topic that has so many sides and emotions and castrating it by making it a pop diddy is something that seems too ironic for Amanda (which may explain why Folds pushed for it to be on the album).

Overall, Who Killed is an amazing album with a couple of very visible missteps. It's hard to say the album would have been better without Ben Folds involvement as much of the expanded musicianship and increased production works. Still, the album feels like no one knew where to draw the line. It feels like at some point someone should have gone, "Yes, the horns are good on 'Leeds United' but let's record the vocals clearly" (of course, this may have been done due to Palmer's vocal cords being strained and requiring surgery) or "Maybe we don't need the intro from 'Strindberg and Helium' on 'Strength Through Music'." But it seems no one did. While the flaws on the album are few, they are highly noticeable and really detract from what is, ultimately, an excellent album. While over-thinking and overproducing didn't kill Amanda Palmer, it sure seems to have tried.


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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
sfbarker (December 16, 2008)

Yeah, the intro missed the mark with me...where the hell does alchemy come into killing kids at school?

The Point of It All is a decent song, Have to Drive was good the first couple of listens, now it is boring. It's a good effort, but I think releasing it so close to No Virginia hurt it. That album was killer...and it was pretty much leftover material from the Dolls.

Of course most of these were songs she didn't think Brian would like or ones he didn't like. So, I guess that explains a lot of why I didn't dig the b-side.

Dante3000 (December 15, 2008)

SFBarker, I don't know if I'd go that far. I thought "The Point of it All" is a really good song. But It is true the second half is weaker (if only because I always skip the one/two of "What's the Use" and "oasis"). Still I think "the Point of it all" is incredibly strong, as is "Have to drive". But really the only weak link on the A-Side is "Strength through music" and that's just due to the intro.

sfbarker (December 15, 2008)

The first half of this album is great. Astronaut, Runs in the Family, Ampersand, etc. All great songs. The B-side blows. Guitar Hero is pretty much the end of the good songs.

Oasis is weak. I understand the irony and a lot of little girls are like that. So hung up on their buddies and seeing rock bands that getting raped, knocked up and having an abortion is a footnote in the year that she actually got a letter from Oasis, but the whole Beach Boys knock-off sounds, etc just felt like a retread of other songs I've heard. I think it is a weak moment.

Leeds United is the best song on the album, hands down. It's a killer track that would have been stellar during a Dresden Dolls show. Too bad they're pretty much broken up now.

I hope Amanda does something better in the future, this album was very front loaded and would have been better served being an EP.

dante3000 (December 15, 2008)

Doesn't Roadrunner release Nu-Metal?

It's funny you mention that. She just posted some big thing about how the Dresden Dolls were on a three album deal with RoadRunner and then the label has the choice to resign (this is technically the third of the contract) and how the head of the label brought her in and said how sorry he was that she never smartened up and made more commercially profitable music. Sounds like a champ.

Xote (December 14, 2008)

She is not the first girl to put nude pictures on a band site... they arn't really pictures to jerk off too... they are obviously more for the art (whatever that means).

Doesn't Roadrunner release Nu-Metal?

I will check this out.

Apeman_on_the_moon (December 13, 2008)

Sasha Fierce is the name I give my palm when I am jerking it to those naked pictures of Amanda Palmer

The_Bunk (December 13, 2008)

Like 10 comments in and no one has picked up on the twin peaks reference?

Speaking of Twin Peaks, i'm amazed that there isn't a band called the bookhouse boys.

franco (December 13, 2008)

Ew she has pit hair

blanktapesemptybottles (December 12, 2008)

Dresden Dolls always sounded really pretentious to me, is that just me? I don't know it's like the way they sing is arrogant, shit.

someone-yeah (December 12, 2008)

lol guys tucking his dick between his legs with "Yoko" written on his chest and calling it art

names (December 12, 2008)

I'm sorry - I'm a Dresden Dolls fan and have been meaning to hear this, but I have to comment not on the record but another comment (and this is what I apologize for...): why does she have naked pictures of her...on...her...bands website? I don't know, this just rubs me the wrong way. Go ahead and take nude pictures and start up a whole new "Amanda Palmer un(er?)dressed" (instead of unplugged, huh, huh?!). But to use your bands website (not even your solo artist's website, if you have one) to display such pictures? ah, whatever.

10-4Eleanor (December 12, 2008)

Great review, Dante.

I have to disagree with you about the Oasis song, however. I think that it's a really fun song, and when examined closely, it's actually about sending fanmail to Oasis with some other secondary stuff. I thought it was executed with just the right amount of 'smug'.

Anyhow, I loved this album.

Dante3000 (December 12, 2008)

Great album, good review, but Dante- Amanda isn't the one singing on "What's the Use in Wond'rin."

Really? There are a few tones where it really sounds like her. I mean for the most part it seemed quite out of the norm for her but there were sections that sounded dead on. Odd.

swank (December 12, 2008)

Good review.
I was going to attempt to review this one myself, but after reading this I'm glad someone else got to it first.

McFlynnTHM (December 12, 2008)

Great album, good review, but Dante- Amanda isn't the one singing on "What's the Use in Wond'rin."

freesandwich (December 12, 2008)

This chick looks like Pete Wentz

dante3000 (December 12, 2008)

Holy shit...I just typed this up and submitted it like 5 hours ago. Either the site is low on reviews or Brian wants to see me get slammed.

chrisafi (December 12, 2008)

Wow, a Dante review/essay.

Let's start arguing

SlowStupidHungry (December 11, 2008)

Who is Sasha Fierce?

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