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Dragged from the Past, Kicking and Screaming

The Dresden Dolls' members look and sound like the last-call orchestra at the Kit Kat Club.
The Dresden Dolls' members look and sound like the last-call orchestra at the Kit Kat Club.

A piano-and-drums duo from Boston that looks and sounds like the last-call orchestra at the Kit Kat Club, The Dresden Dolls approaches its songs in dramatic terms: musical in structure but actorly in delivery, with a Brechtian distance that paradoxically makes the band all the more convincing.

Without seeming to reveal anything about herself on either of the band's two albums, singer Amanda Palmer never pretends that she's not a daughter of the modern age. But she and drummer Brian Viglione coat their material with a sepia tint that makes it seem as if their songs about traffic jams and gender-reassignment surgery are being dragged into the present day from 75 years back.

On "Mrs. O," Palmer sings with such melodramatic ferocity that niceties such as relation to pitch become irrelevant. She howls, she keens, she throws her voice as hard as she can against anyone listening, all the while pumping out measured triplets on her piano in an attempt to stave off the oncoming episode that she sees all too clearly just over the hill in the next chorus. Viglione's no help, pretending to be the rock that will prevent her from losing control while subtly goading her into it. "The truth won't save you now," Palmer finally spits, having admitted her defeat. "The sky is falling down."

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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Marc Hirsh
Marc Hirsh lives in the Boston area, where he indulges in the magic trinity of improv comedy, competitive adult four square and music journalism. He has won trophies for one of these, but refuses to say which.