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Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra – Theatre Is Evil

Emily Bruce


Dresden Doll Amanda Palmer has barely stopped touring since her first solo record came out – nor has she taken a break from making music, having released an EP of Radiohead covers on ukulele and an album of songs recorded (mostly live) in Australia in the past few years. However Theatre Is Evil is technically only her sophomore LP, and it’s been a long time in the making (with many of the songs having been penned as far back as 2008). A lot has happened in the meantime – she’s got married and parted ways with her record label, to name but a few, and many things are different this time around. For starters, she’s enlisted the help of a backing band – the brilliantly named Grand Theft Orchestra. The record has also been funded entirely using Kickstarter, Palmer having broken records for the amount of money raised on the site.

Smile (Pictures Or It Didn’t Happen) is a great introduction, and quintessentially Palmer – dramatic keys and heavy drums matched with an infectious melody. Then comes the fantastic musing on murder in The Killing Type, closely followed by another standout song, latest single Want It Back. Many of the tracks are fast-paced here, and include highlights such as tale of her hometown in Massachusetts Avenue and Melody Dean, a catchy tune about being tempted to stray from her lover with another woman. As per usual with a Palmer record though, the uptempo songs are contrasted nicely with quieter, piano-based numbers such as Trout Heart Replica and The Bed Song, proving she always knows exactly how to blend the two perfectly.

Intelligent, blunt lyrics abide as ever, especially on the extremely moving Grown Man Cry; a heartbreaking song about a difficult lover and the breakdown of their relationship. ‘For a while it was touching, for a while it was challenging, before it became typical and now it really isn’t interesting’, Palmer sings, and it’s hard not to feel moved as the song ends with the sad, sharp line ‘I’m simply giving up on you’. It’s a song that stops you in your tracks, makes you sit up and pay attention – and I’d say it’s the best track on the album along with closer, Olly Olly Oxen Free, which is a wonderful way to end on a high.

The album is exhausting at times, but in a good way; never a one-trick pony, Palmer is full of surprises, and the album always keeps the listener interested, hanging on to see what’s coming next. Eclectic, endearing and entertaining, Theatre Is Evil is a treat; a triumphant second record from a constantly inventive artist.