on 13 September 2012
An awful lot of hype has gathered around this release in the last few months. If the yea-sayers are to be believed, it represents a mighty stride forward into the future of the music business: a million dollar crowdfunded behemoth built on mutual love and admiration between fan and artist; a true leveller of the playing field and an inevitable inspiration to those seeking alternative methods for making their sounds heard.
Regardless of your feelings regarding the album's process, one question has always remained, and it is a question that could only be answered truthfully within the last few days: Is the album actually any good?
The simplest answer would be 'YES', though any answer so brief would do an injustice to a record that has plainly had hours of attention lavished upon even its humblest moments.
In the broadest sense, 'Theatre Is Evil' is very much a product of the 80s. It is not, one should be aware, a mere revivalist exercise: though the music frequently ticks the boxes of goth, cock rock, new wave and new romantic, it still sounds - appropriately enough - new. The twinkling synths that garnish much of the album may have that retro vibe, but they are merely an aspect of the wider pantheon of musical glory.
The band should be exceptionally proud of their creation. Nary a second is left unfilled by thrilling sounds, yet the songs never feel cluttered or unwieldy - just exciting. Palmer herself is also on top form, perhaps in the finest voice of her career, with added menace to the growl and further yearning to the moan.
Of course, as a house with a beautiful facade is no use if the foundations are rotten, so an album covered in pretty music is nothing without good songwriting. Again, AFP & GTO have performed admirably, creating songs that are expertly wrought and fundamentally safisfying in every aspect. The ballads swoon with bitter longing and heart-rending melancholy, whilst the bouncier numbers pop and rock before bursting with superglue choruses, each and all scattered with glittering lyricism.
If you love your music to come with heaping scoops of passion, served with precision and dusted with panache, 'Theatre Is Evil' is the album that will make your year.
on 2 November 2012
Given this album by my son for my sixtieth birthday and looked at the cover(s) and wondered why? Put on the first track and wondered why even more and was then simply blown away with the rest of the album. The power of Amanda's voice, the beauty of the tunes. I was so struck I bought tickets to her Bistol(UK)gig as soon as the CD had finished. Hard to define but elements brought to mind - the energy of the Scissor Sisters, the intricate tunes of Tori Amos and the production that in places reminded me of the Beatles - Sgt Pepper's. This album is simply a work of art. Go listen on something like Sp-tify and you will probably end up buying it. Great present, thanks Gavin.
Once in a while an album comes along which grabs you by the scruff of
the neck, hurls you round the room and turns you inside out and upside
down. Amanda Palmer's new recording 'Theatre Is Evil' blister's and burns
with the kind of raw energy and calamitous emotion which burrows deep
into your heart and brain and won't let go. A truly thrilling experience.
With a tight new ensemble, The Grand Theft Orchestra, at her disposal she
proves beyond doubt her credentials as one of America's most inventive
and credible performers. The thirteen songs in this set, whilst referencing
the seventies and eighties with joyous abandon (the spirits of Toyah Wilcox
and Siouxsie and The Banshees could well be dancing in the wings!) demonstrates
Ms Palmer's capacity to assimilate the past and deliver musical ideas of rich
contemporary relevance. Her voice is an extraordinarily affecting instrument.
Take a song like 'Trout Heart Replica' : against a rolling piano ostinato and
haunting string glissandi her low-pitched vocal emerges from the mist to take
hold of the deftly crafted melody with the kind of restrained passion which
makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck. Some of the album's finest
moments come in its quieter corners - 'The Bed Song' is a delightfully tender
and deeply personal waltz-time composition to rank with her very best work
but there there is wry humour and playful power at hand too in numbers such
as 'Do It With A Rock Star', 'Want It Back', 'Melody Dean' (with its cute
not and wink to The Knack's 1979 hit 'My Sharona') and the blissfully bouncy
final track 'Olly Olly Oxen Free'. It is to the simply stunning song 'Berlin',
however, to which we must turn to feel the full force of Ms Palmer's singular muse.
With its dramatic vocal, stabbing brass accents and epic central climax it
lays a claim to be her very own 'Rock 'N' Roll Suicide'. Move over Mr Bowie!
No doubt about it; 'Theatre Is Evil' is destined for my 2012 Top Ten.
When Amanda Palmer turned to crowdsourcing to fund the manufacture and distribution of Theatre Is Evil, the album was already recorded, so here we have the oddity of a massive spotlight being turned onto what is, at heart, a very modest album. The chances are that Palmer will now 'cross over' to a much wider audience, but on the face of it nothing could be more unexpected, since this is not a particularly commercial album.
Those who heard her previous, big label solo effort, Who Killed Amanda Palmer?, will already expect an album of extremes, from the rampant, energetic pop of 'The Killing Type' to songs such as 'The Bed Song' and 'Berlin' which have a deeply theatrical feel to them. Palmer's lyrics are always edgy and bordering on the confessional, but she has a real gift with melody that means that songs often draw together her influences very cleverly to create something fresh.
Palmer's fans will probably want to lynch me for saying this, but the truth is that Who Killed Amanda Palmer? is actually a better album, where producer Ben Folds helped to rein in some of the self-indulgence and give her 'punk cabaret' roots a hint of high production gloss. Left to her own devices, Palmer has turned in something with a raw energy that can make for uneasy listening. The ballads are just so striking that it's sometimes wrenching to listen to the songs that invoke eighties pop.
That said, for those who can handle the gamut of extravagant emotions run by an immensely talented performer who seems from moment to moment to need either a throat lozenge, a hug or Ritalin, this is a great, vital album.
on 4 November 2012
I have been feeling in need of some hard core, melodic, soaring, angsty music since Florence and the Machine's 'Ceremonials'. For me, this surpasses even that. Utterly fantastic, every song has a hook and soars to an amazing climax, and on the slower tunes (of which there aren't that many) you want to hear the words because they're so beautifully sung and written. I have this on my Ipod and it is perfect jogging music. LOVE LOVE LOVE.
on 25 November 2012
amanda palmer at her brilliant best!a mix of orchestral punk to poignant piano & vocals.her art interpretations by various artists
mirror her moods & compliment her endearing songs-magic!
on 27 January 2016
genius. I've also got "The Art of Asking" on audio CD, and I'm officially a Palmer fan.
on 27 September 2014
When it comes to theatrics Amanda Palmer is queen bee.
on 14 December 2012
Why did I not know Amanda Palmer? How has she managed to pass me by till now? There are 2 main answers to those questions. Firstly, there is a lot of music in the world. Secondly, my radar has recently increased with the wonderful opportunity to listen to new music on certain sites.
And of all the new music I have listened to this year, my most exciting discovery is 'Theatre is Evil'.
I don't really care about genres but, if she must have one, I'd go for 'cabaret punk', although that is probably unfair to the accompanying rock orchestra.
It is an exhausting album, an album so full of energy that a lie-down afterwards feels like a good idea. It is moving and funny and punchy and smart and enjoyable. Yes, an album you are allowed to enjoy not endure.
From an energy point of view I am reminded of Sparks' Propaganda or OK GO's first album or Arcade Fire's Funeral, but overall it feels closest to Ben Folds' Rockin' the Suburbs. Turns out that this isn't surprising as he produced her last album and may have produced this one if he hadn't been busy with his own, or rather, Ben Folds Five's new album. Folds himself says that he would have cut Theatre is Evil a little. Who cares, with an album this good she is allowed some indulgence - and Folds agrees. The similarities with Suburbs are as follows:
1 - they both rock (in their way)
2 - the songs, melodies, formats, lyrics are all great
3 - they are two of the best sing-along albums I know
4 - they both make me cry. Folds has never bettered The Luckiest. On Palmer's Lost she shifts from the loss of a wallet to the following, "no one's ever lost forever, they are caught inside your heart, if you garden them and water them, they make you what you are" which means more than she could imagine to me.
5 - these are probably the best albums either artist is going to make. That sounds rather unkind but i simply mean that they are the equivalent of Bowie's Ziggy Stardust or Neil young's After The Goldrush or the Stones' Let It Bleed. If she betters Theatre is Evil I'll be delighted.
Listening to the album is not a good listen, it's an experience. So I'm glad i didn't know that my daughter had bought tickets for us to see her live - she only told me after Palmer had to cancel to stay with her very ill best friend. But it's ok because Amanda is my friend now.
on 6 August 2015
lost for words Amanda isn't though!