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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, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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