By The Dresden Dolls
The duo of Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione return for their second album, still wearing their cynicism-tinted spectacles and still with wit, melody and taboo in tow. Topics up for discussion this time around include gender-bending, abortion, identity crises and -of course- sex and booze.
There's a lot to take in and this album is probably best in small doses. Listening right through is an endurance task which would surely find even the most die-hard fan needing at least one break for a cuppa and a biscuit.
Individually though, each tune is a mini- slice of cutting black-humour with a good dash of controversy, just as you would expect from the Dolls. Highlights include the opener, 'Sex Changes' with its military-precise drumming and stern piano. Palmer's voice is at its best -full of passion, venom and sarcasm- as she threatens to 'chop our cocks off!' Worryingly, you never quite know if she's joking.
'Backstabber' recalls the stop-start staccato of 'coin operated Boy' -from The Dresden Dolls' self-titled début- before 'Modern Moonlight' shows off just how good a drummer Viglione is. Who would have thought that piano and blast beats could peacefully co-exist in the same song?
Each song is inventive -Mrs O waltzes along to the theme of a real life letter printed in the New York Sun- an 8 year old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote in questioning the existence of Santa Claus, whilst 'Shores of California' is another clever tune with a great Latin vibe.
The problem is, at 55 minutes and 13 tracks, the album is just too long. Both the prominence of the piano and Palmer's voice start to rankle after the first six or seven songs and I was relieved when 'Sing' ended the album. It might seem slightly harsh on what's essentially a selection of good tunes, but The Dresden Dolls really just do variations of the same trick, over and over again.