One of the most unique rock bands in years has been the Dresden Dolls, a kitschy goth band with hard-hitting cabaret-punk and a sense of humour about themselves. When I put their self-titled debut on my computer and listened, I knew I was hearing a winner.
And now "Dresden Dolls -- Paradise" shows fans a few other facets of Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione, and their live performances. It's not only a cool DVD for fans, who will adore these little nuggets of insight, but for anyone who is contemplating becoming a musician.
It opens with a "day in the life," shot with handheld cameras (don't worry, it's not nausea-inducing). We get to see the Dolls do all those ugly little morning things people do: roll out of bed, drop things in the toilet, swear, paint on eyebrows, get shampooed, do yoga, and run around in sweats. And in Amanda's case, go through songwriting agonies and practice singing at the station.
Then tragedy: the Dolls are going to perform an intimate performance at the Paradise in Boston, and Brian's drum kit is AWOL. Enter a hilarious sock-puppet reenactment of a new drum kit being gotten, and the Dolls hanging out in ancitipation of their performance. We also get to hear from the Dolls' pals, neighbors, some of their fans (including little children), and a bunch of kitsch-goth fans congregating in front of the theatre.
I haven't been lucky enough to see the Dolls perform live -- yet -- but you can feel the energy just watching a live DVD. We're taken backstage for the pre-show and an interview where Christopher Lyden asks about "that song," and the Dolls answer a few fans' questions.
Then there's the live show: in eerie blue lighting, it opens with the band playing, and they are in perfect form: ominous piano, sharp drums, and Palmer's deep, staccato singing. And then there are their best-known songs ("Coin Operated Boy" and "Girl Anachronism") played at the Roskilde Festival. And finally there are a pair of gloriously strange music videos for the above songs: "Coin Operated Boy" is a colorful, sly ode to a sweet sex toy, and "Girl Anachronism" is a dark, chaotic, costumey display of madness.
In other words, this is a delight for all Dresden Dolls fans; we get to see the musicians at their best (and worst), and they seem like cool people, nice to their fans and surrounded by some awesome fans. Listening to Amanda joking about herpes, or Brian talking about Mexican fans' passion, it seems like you're hanging out with them.
It seems like it will be a bit dull at first, but then you get drawn into it without meaning to. It's also nice to see musicians who are fine with being seen in less-than-amazing moments, such as Brian's terminal bedhead, or Amanda twisting around in only a sports bra and shorts. You gotta respect them for this warts-and-all display. (And I want, want, want a dress like hers)
And the live performance is as close as you can be to being there, without being there. The Dolls show why they are such a great band, with explosive music and raw, wild songs. We get to see the fans talking about why they love the Dolls -- including one sweet little girl who wants to be a drummer because of Brian -- and dressing up in complimentary costumes. Not only can you feel the energy of the Dolls, but you can feel the cameraderie of those loyal fans.
The Dresden Dolls on a CD are cool enough as it is. But fans hungry for more will adore "Dresden Dolls -- Paradise," with its warts-and-all documentary and electric live performances.