Boston's The Dresden Dolls seemed to come out of left field when their self-titled debut album began picking up steam via word-of-mouth and when "coin-operated boy" became a cult hit. Their wholly unique brand of theatrics, cabaret and dark confessionals was a refreshing change of pace.
With a cult classic under their belt, the Boston duo, made up of Amanda Palmer (piano, organ, mellotron) and Brian Viglione (drums, guitar, bass) are in a bit of a bind. What do they do for a follow-up? How can they make another captivating collection of songs, in a similar vein of avant-garde cabaret, without rehashing the debut? Luckily for The Dresden Dolls, with "Yes Virginia," (2006) the band make a sophomore album that takes up where the debut left off, yet also has its own signature and doesn't merely try to capture the style and spirit of its predecessor.
Compared to the self-titled debut, "Yes, Virginia" sounds more vigorous, and the album overall has more of a "rock" feel, yet without losing its theatrical, cabaret backbone. The duo sound sure of themselves and in their element. Palmer is kind of hard to figure out. Sometimes she seems to mock the subjects in her songs (dirty business), sometimes seems to hate them, (backstabber) or shows sympathy (Delilah). Other times it's hard to know if Palmer is being sarcastic, ironic, or sincere. Sometimes it's hard to know when she's wearing the theatrical mask or if she's being herself. While the album is theatrical in nature, at times Palmer seems to break out of her theatrical persona, such as with the candid and sincere "Delilah" and the beautiful, lush "sing" in which Palmer states "life is no cabaret." This makes "Yes, Virginia," a more three-dimensional album compared to the debut.
It took the Dresden Dolls three years to come up with a sophomore album and by listening to these songs you can clearly see why. The band didn't just use scraps or b-sides, but rather meticulously crafted their new body of work. It's obvious to the listener that each song on "Yes, Virginia" is a labor of love.