‘Yes, Virginia’ is the second studio album by punk cabaret duo ‘The Dresden Dolls’, released April 2006. In the early millennium, the Boston based group helped to create a new genre, drawing off of the gothic aspects of Nick Cave and Lou Reed, and combining them with the hard hitting punk styles that emerged in America in the late 80’s and early 90’s. After developing a cult following with their energetic live shows and wonderfully twisted debut album, the duo went back in the studio to prove that punk cabaret was more than just a flash in the pan.
Unlike their very raw and emotional debut, the tracks on this album were very well crafted, losing the schizophrenic aspect of their sound and instead becoming much more ‘controlled’. With Brian Viglione making even the most talented of metal drummers blush, and the somewhat maverick pianist/vocalist Amanda Palmer (who you may know from her $1million kickstarter album), this band possess a unique blend of stunning sensitivity and skull splitting rhythm, often experienced within the same song.
Never one to shy away from controversial subjects, the album opens with the frantic ‘sex changes’, this is instantly followed up by ‘backstabber’, both showcasing a more systematic side to the band with catchy melodies and an instantly recognisable piano hooks.
The album has several subdued moments during which some more difficult subjects are explored such as the powerful ‘Delilah’, a true story of domestic abuse wrapped around an intensifying ballad in which you can hear Palmers frustration as she recites the events back to the listener. The tragic ‘Me and the Minibar’ is a heartbreakingly honest account of an emotional low point for Palmer. The sentiment so palpable that it is hard not to get caught up in the grief being expressed.
One of the Major highlights of the album is the dynamic ‘Dirty Business’, a fist pumping, driven rocker that wittily explores the world of courtship through the medium of somewhat dark humour. This superb track perfectly captures the attitude and energy that ‘The Dresden Dolls’ took into their live performances, balancing frantic drum fills and piano parts that hit you like a sledge hammer, with rhythmic melodies and conjuring lyrics.
The closing track ‘Sing’ is perhaps the closest this duo come to writing a conventional pop song, a rousing sing along anthem that oozes optimism and effortlessly reflects on society as a whole. With lyrics and melodies that encourage you to sing along, it is little wonder that this became the lead single off of this album, even breaking into the top 100 of some charts around the world.
Ultimately ‘Yes, Virginia’ never stood a chance of being a commercial success, the duo’s unique sound and controversial themes make sure of that. However as a piece of art this album is almost faultless, the atmosphere and quality are consistent throughout, with the pacing holding your attention throughout the full 55 minutes. This album is a fantastic example of how fascinating rock can be when the manual is thrown out, and at 10 years old it still stands sounds as unique as it ever did.
This ‘The Dresden Dolls’ article was written by Harrison Moore, a GIGsoup contributor