Amanda Palmer - There Will Be No Intermission (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Amanda Palmer

There Will Be No Intermission (2019)

Cooking Vunyl

                Since Dresden Dolls parted ways, I’ve really tried to get into Amanda Palmer’s solo albums. For me, they were always recording that jumped from moments of brilliance to moments where things didn’t work quite as well as they could have. Because of that, I approached There Will Be No Intermission with a decent amount of caution.

The first two singles, “Drowning in Sound” and Voicemail for Jill”, both definitely worked. The former found Palmer collaborating with Ben Folds again, which these two working together has always just worked out well somehow. I don’t know if it’s the fact you have two great songwriters, one coming from a more experimental place musically and the other one of the masters of 21st century pop rock, and the balance each other out or what. It’s just one of those combos, that works.

“Voicemail for Jill” might be the strongest set of lyrics Amanda Palmer has ever written. The song finds here delving into being pro-choice. Not just as a concept, or a matter of personal politics. But, being truly pro-choice in the sense that song ends with Palmer singing she wants to throw her friend an abortion shower. That doesn’t’ give the song its power though, Palmer constantly reminding Jill that she understands the choice she’s made. That she understands the hell she’s going through, both publicly and privately. It’s a truly rare song, as far as pro-choice songs go, as it is absolutely humanist in the way it looks at the situation. Whereas other songs try and boil this down to politics and reproductive rights, this song succeeds because it focuses on the woman making the choice and her human experience. It suggests that experience is not only important, but that we should lift our friends up who go through it.

Aside from the first two singles though, as I said previously, I approached this album with a good deal of caution. After a few early listens shortly after it came out in March a combination of events happening in my hometown made processing music as anything more than notes … difficult for a while. Whereas the year my mother passed, I found plenty of music to take solace in, 2019 was a year I couldn’t find a soundtrack for as it happened. It was something I went back to find in the last few months of the year. When the world around me began to calm down, I revisited this album. And I found it to be the album I needed.

The first three songs shift back and forth between hope and fear, and that’s how much of 2019 felt for me. Palmer’s use of piano, keys, and ukulele were all subdued and allowed her to develop moods she couldn’t find on previous solo efforts like Theatre is Evil. And it was really her more subdued approach to instrumentation that made this album work. While one of Dresden Dolls’ and Amanda Palmer’s tricks have always been tying upbeat music with lyrics that are either dark or trending toward the macabre, that doesn’t happen here. And it works so much better. You feel like you’re in a room with someone confessing their secrets and fears to you. It makes for a very personal album, which given the subject matter, was needed.

Elsewhere, Palmer deals with the struggles of being a mother “A Mother’s Confession” and the fear of being a teenage girl becoming a woman, “Judy Blume.” In her approach to these subjects, she almost enters the Tori Amos realm of writing for women who are coming of age. If you’re not certain what I’m referring to, go listen to Little Earthquakes.

There Will Be No Intermission is the most fully realized album of Amanda Palmer’s career as a songwriter. Not all the songs have the energy of her cabaret punk days with Dresden Dolls, nor the pop appeal of some of her earlier solo albums. But this is the first album Amanda Palmer has made where you feel like she gutted herself writing it. It’s her most mature work to date and given how starkly personal it is. The fact she is standing nude on the cover, is the perfect photograph to show listeners what they’re in store for.