The Dresden Dolls
Nowadays it may seem like generic piano-driven
power pop, especially now that the Dolls are
bopping around with the execrable likes of Fall
Out Boy, but this band has an oft-overlooked
history. Diehard fans pine for the old Amanda
Palmer (lead vocalist and pianist), the absolutely
off-kilter musician who, long before the Dolls,
was known for tearing off her clothes while
screaming as part of an interpretive art show
she used to perform in downtown Boston. That
was the very edge they seem to miss now. Songs
about pederasty, regret, and even NPR radio
hosts are all spindled together with the often
eerie, emotional tunes of both piano and drums.
It’s witty, ironic, and somewhat silly at times. If
you’ve only listened to Yes, Virginia, which seems
to be more of a “shopping mall CD,” I’d suggest
skipping to something of more substance,
something inherently more human and real. Try
their first release, which is self-titled, or even the
less polished A is for Accident. While you’re at it,
stop shopping at FYE and get out of the mall.
Clare Fader & The Vaudevillains
This band is in the same neck of the woods as the
Dresden Dolls, save for some crucial differences:
more quirk, less bipolarity, and an eclectic cast
of instruments—from cellos to bicycle spokes.
The result is a colorful and witty mix of different
styles, most notably cabaret and jazz, led by
the voice of a throaty Clare Fader. In short, it’s
guaranteed fun music, and you’ll find yourself
laughing at the witty story-like lyrics that every
song has to offer. Try Seventh and Trade for starters,
and let yourself be whisked off to a quirky land of
lyrical pulp fiction.
Ching Chong Song
Kitschy and loopy, one is never sure whether Ching
Chong Song is being honest or genuinely demented.
Backed by the whaling, strange shrieks
of a saw, Julie LaMendola and Dan Gower are a
true act to behold. The music is far from conventional
and is almost a bit too hyperactive at
times, switching from one crazed tone of voice to
another and often immediately changing tempos.
It’s confusing, surely, but they are an interesting
band to see live if only for their eccentric personalities.
Some call it “odd cabaret,” while they
themselves call it “subversive anti-folk.” Whatever
the case, they certainly pull off the key element
of uniqueness: Being strange.