2 of 2 thought this review was well written
Ever since signing to Roadrunner Records in 2004, the Dresden Dolls have enjoyed a level of success quite unusual for a band of their style. Building on a cult following formed through rigorous touring, the bands unique sound, dubbed as ‘Punk-Cabaret’, has captured the hearts of many. These days the imperfections in Amanda Palmers voice are considered charming, whilst drummer Brian Vigliones eccentrics on stage are admired, however such adoration has not always been the case.
The Dresden Dolls’ first release A is for Accident
, tells the story of the band on the road, before their fame, playing to much smaller crowds than they are now accustomed to. Consisting of a selection of demos and live tracks, we hear the Dolls play without the shine of studio-production, with just the bare bone of the songs and an audience. Playing in a 2-piece, the songs are always going to be low key, but the album sees the band at their most minimalist, and thus the importance of ‘the performance’ becomes vital. So, with this in mind, you might consider it odd that the live tracks selected, are frequented with bum notes, off-key moments and various other mistakes. However, it appears to me that this is precisely what they wanted to capture, and the raw emotion of the Dresden Dolls live experience, can only be understood in its most natural of forms.
Despite its faults, what A is for Accident
creates perfectly is in intimacy between band and listener. Palmers’ crowd interaction between songs, and playful vocal quirks give the listener a sense of the moment, and one can always imagine themselves in the room with the band. The personal nature to the lyrics also promotes this intimacy, as Amanda sings out about her experiences busking, schoolgirl crushes, and more genuine love affairs, with a passion in her voice as if telling these stories for the first time. Although her voice is not technically one of the strongest you’ll hear, it is carried by her commitment to the words, and this passion is both powerful and rare.
The songs themselves are generally more sombre in tone, than on the bands studio work. Although ballads are hardly uncommon on their later releases, they can be found in abundance on this album, and rather too much in my opinion. Whilst capable of writing the perfect ballad, on this album they get in the way of the upbeat moments, which originally attracted me to the band. Perhaps my favourite of these tracks however, is Christopher Lydon
, written as a mock love song for the American media personality. As well as being genuinely funny, the song contains some great vocal and piano melodies, whilst Viglione sits back and creates mood with some subtle cymbal work. The song offers up one of the many great lyrical expressions on the album;
“Drawn like a Bull to a Matador / I just see visions of Christopher / shot down by arrows from waves above / Christopher Lydon renounced my love”
Whilst the track stands up on the basis of amazing song writing, the version on here isn’t the strongest, and is weak in comparison to the Live in Paradise
DVD version. In fact, that could be said for a number of the tracks on the album, and whilst I continue to commend the emotion and intimacy contained on here, the DVD will present an even better account of the Dresden Dolls live show.
Another failure of the album, is the lack of presence from drummer Brian Viglione. It must be stressed that this is completely down to the song selection, and not a reflection on the drummers’ abilities, which are really quite something. With the omission of tracks such as Half Jack
and the bands cover of Black Sabbaths War Pigs
which could have easily been included, Vigliones drumming isn’t showcased in it’s best light, which is a shame due to the power which it can offer. Instead, Viglione seems to sit in the back, and support the songs written by Palmer, and whilst he can quite easily do this, his ability is sorely missed.
Although I had mentioned that this release is dominated by ballads, a few old upbeat favourites do appear. Early versions of to-be-released tracks Coin Operated Boy
and Ms. O
as well as live favourite Missed Me
provide the lighter side of the album, as the lyrics here are at their most quirky and original;
Made of plastic and elastic / he is rugged and long-lasting / who could ever ask for more / love without complications galore
Although these tracks are an interesting listen, they don’t stray awfully from the later released versions, and perhaps only really worthwhile for keen Dresden Dolls fans.
And so that last line, pretty much sums up my overall opinion of this album. If you are seeking the best of the Dresden Dolls song writing, the first album (and second for that matter) is much better suited, and if you are after the Dresden Dolls live experience the live DVD is a much stronger option; leaving this album always 2nd or 3rd best. For a fan of the Dresden Dolls, I’d say this is a nice thing to have in your collection, especially with the addition of their earlier material, but even that is not up to the standard of their other work. For an outsider of the band, I would ignore this one for now, and maybe return to it after falling in love with the bands other material. Overall, A is for Accident provides a sound collection of Dresden Dolls songs, which are always interesting, but not stunning like much of their other works.