Here’s a clip of Dresden Dolls singer, and ‘Brechtian punk’ songwriter and performer Amanda Palmer with a tune off of her first solo album, 2008’s Who Killed Amanda Palmer?. It’s ‘Ampersand’, the third track off of that record, and something of a song of defiance to the idea of couples joined at the hip, plus a few observations on the absurdity, and even dangers, of modern courtship and love in general.
The melding of a woman’s singing voice, piano, and strings often evokes associations with touchy-feely sensitivity, and perfume-scented sentiment often relegated to our own personal Lilith Fair conceptions. Yet, true artists are able to take the elements of what’s familiar, what is deemed as safe, and then turn it on its head. Because, one doesn’t need a guitar, bass, drums, and snotty-nosed delivery to be punk rock. Amanda Palmer proves this on this tune alone.
This is a love song, but not of the usual sort. In this tune, this is love on a bad day. It’s about hitching one’s wagon to someone else’s, and how that can negatively impact one’s identity if one lets it. It’s a song about barriers, and of necessary boundaries. And you get the impression that one party isn’t quite in step with the program. As a result, there’s miles of tension in this tune, with Palmer’s almost violent delivery in front her piano, contrasted to arranger (first famously for Elton John) Paul Buckmaster’s strings.
There’s so much subversion in this tune, and the lyrics are relentless. Even before the bizarrely disjointed-yet-perfect middle section, you’re already getting rock n roll’s rebellious spirit in the middle of what would otherwise be a baroque-folk song that happens to be about a block-consuming fire. As it happens, it’s a song about not letting oneself be consumed. In a culture such as ours which is so often in the throes of deceptively dangerous ‘you complete me’ approaches to love, this tune raises the alarm.
To learn more about this song, and the making of the album, check out the Who Killed Amanda Palmer album site, which includes early song lists, videos, photos, and actual correspondence between Palmer, and co-producer Ben Folds. It’s a fascinating look into the process of how two artists get an album done.
For more music and upcoming projects including Palmer’s Radiohead cover tunes project, check out AmandaPalmer.net.
Also, be sure to follow Amanda Palmer on Twitter for real-time updates.