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Controversial Musician Prepares for Local Debut

Published: August 4, 2009 (Issue # 1497)



  • Palmers songs create controversy, with some media refusing to play them.
    Photo: Beth Hommel

Amanda Palmer, who came to fame as the frontwoman of The Dresden Dolls, Bostons self-described Brechtian cabaret-punk band, does not fit in with todays declining and increasingly boring music industry. The big-voiced singer, who also plays piano, harmonica and ukulele and is in town this week for a joint concert with Jason Webley, is set to crush barriers, twist meanings, challenge audiences and maybe provoke thought, although she insists that her approach to songwriting is generally spontaneous.

I never know; I write what comes into my head and its always different, Palmer said in an email on Sunday.

Lately Ive been writing weird swirly pop songs, but that always changes. It can depend on what Im hearing outside.

But Palmer, who defies categorizing as an artist, is notorious for either taking unlikely subjects for her songs, which are normally permeated with dark irony, or dealing with them in unlikely ways. Astronaut, the opening track on her first solo album Who Killed Amanda Palmer? (a reference to Twin Peaks,) is an ode to a spaceman crashing in the name of science. Just my luck they found your upper half / its a very nice reminder, goes the song.

In Strength Through Music, which refers to the Columbine High School massacre, a character hangs his Walkman around his neck before embarking on a killing spree in order to have a soundtrack to the murders he is going to commit. It is so simple / the way they fall / no bang or whimper / no sound at all, she sings in the song.

But to her surprise, it was the song Oasis that caused the biggest controversy in the U.K. earlier this year, where many broadcasting media including MTV U.K. and NME TV refused to play it. (BBC6 did play it, however.)

Oasis is a catchy pop song sung from the perspective of a girl who goes through a date rape and abortion, but is overjoyed, because when she returns home, there is a signed photograph of the British band Oasis in her mailbox. Palmer famously described herself as pro-choice but anti-stupid when commenting on the song.

It was shunned in the U.K. because of the content, Palmer said in her email.

The radio and video outlets thought I was making light of rape and abortion. Some people do not understand irony and sacrcasm as a healing tool.

Another controversy arose when her record label, Roadrunner Records, thought her solo album, produced by singer-songwriter Ben Folds (who also played on the record) and released in September, was not commercial enough and chose not to invest in promoting it.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Jan. 30 through Wednesday, Feb. 4



A retrospective of the films of Roman Polanski starts today at Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt, with a screening of Repulsion at 7 p.m. and Rosemarys Baby at 9:15 p.m. The series runs through Feb. 4 and will include Polanski's eminently creepy The Tenant, the cult comedy The Fearless Vampire Killers and Cul-de-sac among others. Tickets are 150-200 rubles and the complete schedule is available at www.vk.com/artpokaz/



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