Good things come to those who browse indie stores. It was by one such store that I found the Dresden Dolls' self-titled debut, a stormy mesh of twisted lyrics about everything from insanity to self-mutilations, raw punk music and cabaret kitsch.
And it was -- I found out -- only in such stores that I could find "A is for Accident," a collection of the Dolls' live performances from 2001 to 2003. The cabaret-punk music is exceptional, but the sound quality varies wildly from song to song.
A handful of these ten songs are also included in their album, such as the playfully strange "Coin-Operated Boy," the staccato piano of "Missed Me," and the expansive, slow-building "Truce," where Amanda Palmer sounds her dark best. But there are also several songs that were NOT on their debut, such as the ominous ballad "Mrs O," the aching yowls of "Glass Slipper," the slithery piano melody of "Thirty Whacks," and the kitschy glamour of "Bank of Boston Beauty Queen."
"A Is For Accident" is definitely a good listen for fans of the Dresden Dolls -- not only does it have live songs, but also several that otherwise can't be heard. Perhaps the Dolls will put them on another album, but as it stands, it's great to hear Amanda belting out those songs. And, sometimes, the applause.
She and co-musician Brian Viglione create smashing music. Literally. Palmer plays a toy piano, ripping over it and wringing raw music-box melodies out of it. Viglione adds the "punk" to punk-cabaret, with jagged drums that give this twisted music its furious edge. Together, they're absolutely brilliant. And Amanda's throaty voice gets to be funny, strange, dramatic and drama-queeny.
The problem? Well, while the songs are good, the sound quality is uneven. Some songs are so clear that they could have been recorded in a studio, but others sound distant and even muddy. "The Time Has Come" is a problem, for example, with Palmer trying to cope with rotten acoustics; at other times, you can barely hear what she's saying. (Not for lack of effort either)
The Dresden dolls are the most wonderfully twisted thing to ever come out of Boston, and "A is for Accident" is definitely worth having, despite the varying quality of the sound.