The Dresden Dolls - Yes Virginia...
Record Label: Roadrunner Records
Release Date: April 19, 2006 (USA)
In 2006, the currently separated Boston duo The Dresden Dolls released their sophomore album, Yes Virginia... As eloquently put by the NME, The Dresden Dolls sound like “the bastard lovechild of Tori Amos and an Eastern European touring circus.” A bizarre but fitting description of the music that vocalist/lyricist/pianist Amanda Palmer and percussionist Brian Viglione create.
Beginning with the enigmatic “Sex Changes,” the Dolls pull no punches with their brutal honesty and witty takes on life, in its bleakness and wonder. Palmer’s song writing skills can only be admired here, as she manages to make lyrics seem so clear cut that they could apply to gender reassignment, abortion, addictions, and the pitfalls of sex. While it doesn't exactly lighten the mood, the album seamlessly plunges into lead single “Backstabber” – a ruthless attack on the greed for fame, accompanied by an upbeat and jaunty piano backing. The tinkering piano contrasts with the snarled attacks of “jaded bitter joy crusher / failure has made you so cruel,” with Palmer letting loose on an unnamed figurehead for her rage.
The album, while almost strictly piano and drums, varies greatly in style and theme. There is the closest the Dolls have come to a ballad, in the form of the seven minute long “Delilah,” a creeping and desperate plea to a friend who has been lost to an abusive partner. Viglione’s drumming pounds and stutters, showing off the remarkable reason why Viglione is as essential a part of the Dolls as Palmer. His often frenetic drumming accompanies the music like a melody; pounding alongside Palmer’s thundering piano while adding depth of its own, creating an irregular but welcome change to the steady drum beat that gets lost in most other bands’ music.
The shortest track on Yes Virginia..., “My Alcoholic Friends,” showcases Palmer’s often blasé attitude to important issues by creating humor in places of darkness. Remarking that she’s “trying hard / not to be ashamed / not to know the name / of who is waking up beside me,” while acknowledging that, if nothing else, “the ceiling’s very pretty.” Dealing with themes such as abortion, casual sex, and loneliness may not seem fun listening, but Palmer’s lyrics that objectify the subjects of the song with a mix of sympathy and disdain provide an honest approach to issues very few artists are unwilling to confront.
The album closes with the simply titled “Sing.” Beginning with a gently strummed guitar backing and Palmer’s low and softly spoken vocals, the track increases in pace until it reaches a crescendo of crashing drums, cymbals, passion, and purpose. Palmer desperate pleads to sing, for any reason at all; “sing because it's obvious, sing for the astronauts, sing / sing for the president, sing for the terrorists, sing.” It ends the album on a hopeful and emphatic close.
If you are approaching this album and being lulled into thinking this is easy listening, you are sorely mistaken. Yes Virginia... shows a clear progression from the Dolls’ debut, The Dresden Dolls, by increasing in frenzy, aggression, musicianship, and depth. The lack of guitars emphasize that it is a lot easier to be heard and understood through honesty and craft, and by what you say rather than how loud you say it. Yes Virginia... is a masterpiece (yes, masterpiece) of an album that shows how, in the long run, honesty and heart in music win out over catchy tunes and empty meaning.
dammit, i didn't know they broke up. that's a huge dissspointment, i JUST started to really dig them. oh, well, they were spectacular. good review. tracks like Sex Changes and First Orgasm are unforgettable.