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Virginia Coalition

 

The Dresden Dolls: Yes, Virginia...

Roadrunner, 2006

Rating: 3.7

 

Posted: April 26, 2006

By Peter Landwehr

The Dresden Dolls have always termed their music "Brechtian punk cabaret," which is one of those buzzword combinations that makes one assume that they're a novelty act. A history of strong live shows and 2004's rousing eponymous LP have put this assumption to the test, however, and revealed that the Dolls' overacting on stage and in the recording studio is quite sincere and that their music is good.

Yes, Virginia..., their sophomore release, is undeniably in the last album's vein and specializes in songs that sound more like show tunes than typical rock, while infinitely more like rock than any rock musical out there. Drummer Brian Viglione deserves at least partial credit for this, since his assaults are fundamental in rounding out lead singer and lyricist Amanda Palmer's piano. The two manage to supplant doubts about fullness of sound that many other duos navigate through production tricks. While there are some overdubbed vocals scattered throughout the album to mixed effect, only on the closing "Sing" do the two actually add additional instrumentation, and it is to excellent and cheesy effect.

Otherwise, the unadorned pair could be in a dancehall or on a stage and be equally comfortable. Palmer continues to specialize in songs that bear her heart for the world to see, something that her pop sensibilities and lyrical cleverness ("And that's the way it's been since protozoa / First crawled on the shores of California") make a treat despite teetering on the edge of egomania and unrelenting sexual imagery; "the first orgasm of the morning" isn't a concept the average listener will necessarily accept unblinkingly at first blush, despite enjoying the ballad.

Still, Palmer's theatrics, plus the sheer infectious bounce and pound of the piano and the singsong choruses generally more than tie everything together. That isn't much aid on "Me & The Minibar" or "Delilah", which drag and drag, but a song like "My Alcoholic Friends", with its jazzy stomp and vamps, helps to forgive all. Yes, Virginia... is quite a bit of fun, and if it ultimately feels as if it's slightly less than its predecessor, that's because there's a sense of the band's acting out more in order to try and show how outrageous it can be. But if putting on a show makes you catchy as hell, so what?

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