Artist: The Dresden Dolls
Title: Yes, Virginia...
Genre: Brechtian punk cabaret
Before Amanda Palmer was Amanda-Fuckin'-Palmer, she was the pianist and frontwoman for a bizarre dark cabaret duo who wore white grease paint and bowler hats on stage and gained momentum in the early aughts. They put on energetic shows (I've seen them three times, and they're just incredible live) and sing about back-alley abortions, transitioning, evolution, domestic abuse, alcoholism, and even Holocaust deniers. Their music was dark and yet hopeful, bright and poppy despite the oftentimes cynical subject matter.
Yes, Virginia... is the quintessential The Dresden Dolls record. It has seat-of-your-pants rockers like Necessary Evil, jarring stagger-stop piano in Sex Changes, heartbreaking pathos in Delilah, and unrelenting optimism in Sing. Although, optimism in a very Dresden Dolls mould: "you motherfuckers will sing some day." I always enjoy Palmer's lyrical loop-dee-loops. She turns phrases with the best of them on this record. There are lines like "The first orgasm of the morning is like a fire drill" (First Orgasm), "There's no hell and no Hiroshima, Chernobyl was a cover-up, the world is really all in love" (Mrs. O), and "She's the kind of girl... who tells you she's bipolar just to make you trust her" (Dirty Business).
They only put out three albums, and the final one, No, Virginia..., felt very much like a collection of leftovers. It's kind of a shame that they didn't do more--Brian Viglione in particular, as he is one of the most expressive and talented drummers out there. They occasionally reunite for one-off performances, and if you ever have a chance to see them, do it.
Further Listening: Palmer's solo career has produced a number of interesting records, and she is constantly putting out new material. Who Killed Amanda Palmer has my favorite of her songs, Leeds United, and Theatre Is Evil has probably my second-favorite, Do It With A Rock Star. I also rather like No, Virginia... despite its unevenness, especially for the demo of The Mouse And The Model from when they had bass and guitar in the band.