‘Theatre Is Evil’ by Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra
By Allison Stewart,
Call it virtual busking.
Amanda Palmer’s recent crowd-funding drive was the biggest for a musician in Kickstarter history, raising almost $1.2 million for the making of her new album, “Theatre Is Evil.” Palmer, the former leader of the punk-cabaret outfit the Dresden Dolls, is adept at harnessing social media to gain and tend to an increasingly feverish fan base: She hasn’t sold many albums, but the reach of her Twitter account rivals Kanye West’s, and Palmer has a Barnum-like sense of showmanship that threatens to eclipse her music (West, at press time, has never made a viral-video reenactment of the David Bowie film “Labyrinth” starring sock puppets).
“Theatre” is gorgeous and vampy and often disappointingly conventional — many songs are either nominally updated rehashes of ’80s synth-pop tropes or overly familiar string-and-piano ballads. But lyrically, Palmer is an outlier who specializes in the raw and the weird, such as the viscerally sad “Trout Heart Replica,” which draws parallels between the killing of a fish and a doomed relationship; it’s history’s only vegetarian murder ballad/love song.
The slow songs are showy, even when they needn’t be, but the big songs are satisfyingly big, giving the impression of barely contained mayhem. On “Do It With a Rockstar,” the increasingly desperate titular musician tries to convince his/her quarry to stay the night (“Do you want to see all my cavities?/ Talk about the crisis in the Middle East?”). In a just world, it would be a huge hit. In this one, it answers any lingering questions about what Jane’s Addiction might sound like if it were fronted by Katy Perry.
— Allison Stewart
“Do It With a Rockstar,” “Trout Heart Replica”