Amanda Palmer is an artist obsessed with creating connections. She writes personal songs in such an open and honest way that listeners are forced to respond. Love her or hate her, you cannot accuse her of taking the easy way out.
Her latest project see the addition of The Grand Theft Orchestra to her piano-driven rock/alternative music. If anything, the great risk of Theatre is Evil is the arrangement style. This is a loud album. It’s filled with effects and large ensemble moments that don’t rely on Amanda’s piano skills. There are songs that don’t even begin to use piano until you’ve already fallen into the groove.
“The Killing Type” is one of the strongest and most unexpected songs on the album. It’s a dark track about the nature of pain, desperation, and relationships. It’s catchy It will drill its way into your brain with a repeated, almost sing-song verse and a strong use of repetition. You’re learning it by rote as the song plays out.
It’s also the first track on Theatre is Evil to not have piano. There’s synth and lots of guitar distortion, but no traditional piano sound. Aside from her ukulele tracks, I struggle to think of another time when Amanda Palmer was willing to step this far away from piano as the driving force of her music. It’s jarring at first until you realize the song is just as strong and familiar as the piano-only numbers.
While listening to Theatre is Evil, you will hit a moment when you realize that Amanda Palmer has crafted her most mainstream album to date. The music is undeniably hers. The lyrics are deeply personal and the songs build up like a skyscrapers of sound. No matter how large the track is at the top, it will transform into a grand and sprawling musical epic in unexpected ways. The only real difference is a more traditional rock sound.
Amanda has opened herself up for a larger audience. It’s only fitting that her hugely successful Kickstarter project would spawn an album ready for a new audience to find her. Songs like “Smile,” “Bottomfeeder,” and “Olly Olly Oxen Free” could fit right in with typical Top 40/CHR programming. If bands like The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Black Keys can have big crossover singles, why not Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra?
Amanda Palmer’s greatest strength is writing anthems that people want to sing along with. Theatre is Evil is no exception. During the launch concert in NYC last week, the crowd was singing along with all the new music by the second chorus. The clever use of rhythm creates a unique sense of movement while embracing the standard rock structure for familiarity. It’s popular music for listeners who want more than candy coated fluff in their lives.
Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra have put out one of the most engaging albums of the year. The replay value is high. The songs are strong and catchy. The lyrics will just grab you with an unexpected image that makes you want to listen again and again until you’ve created your own connection. It’s a delicate balancing act between the experimentation of Amanda Palmer and the structure of a more traditional rock act and it works wonders.
Thoughts on Theatre is Evil? If nothing else, it serves as a testament to a fantastic Kickstarter pitch. Amanda delivered what she promised and took the extra money to make the promised project better. What do you think? Sound off below.