Something happened to The Dresden Dolls since their self-titled debut from two years ago. As I listened to Yes, Virginia… I felt as though something was missing. Although the same theatrical melancholy is present on both works, there is something inexplicably forgettable about this album. Amanda Palmer’s vocal styling has only developed even more of a cabaret tonality since their debut. In fact, this latest effort seems to be almost an exaggerated caricature of the last, with eyebrow-raising lyrics like “we need to chop your cock off / tick-tock, tick-tock…”
But suddenly, just what Yes, Virginia… was missing dawned on me—Amanda Palmer is a much better pianist now than in her early recordings. But it was the crass and unrefined quality of the Dolls’ first record that gave it much of its charm. The combination of Palmer’s crude perspective on piano theory and lyrical choices-ranging from the plight of the child molester (“Missed Me”) to the pleasures derived from self-mutilation (“Bad Habit”)-had a certain jaw-dropping tragic beauty. But there’s something just inherently vanilla about Yes, Virginia… The newfound musicianship and recording techniques have somehow buffed out the rough edges that made their debut stand up and be noticed.
That being said, Virginia is not without its gems. But I would suggest you refrain from this album and wait for Amanda Palmer’s collaborations with the …Trail of Dead outfit for what is sure to be a bombastic kaleidoscope of epic rock.