The Weekly Jive

Posted May 15, 2008 in Music

The Dresden Dolls—No, Virginia . . . (Roadrunner)

With each album Boston’s vaudeville tandem The Dresden Dolls puts out, it seems they stray a little farther from the psycho-cabaret and the mephistophelean antics that carved their niche—which is as it should be, as niches, even well-done tranny-punk, don’t usually hold up over the long haul. That’s not to say that the latest, No, Virginia . . . is devoid of the kinds of romping androgyrock theatrics that garnered attention in 2006’s Yes Virginia, but it’s as if Johnette Napolitano has given singer/keyboardist Amanda Palmer her subtlety, and the Devics have shown them how to put music to Daguerreotypes. All of this to say, the melodies are stronger, the songs have more emotional range, and the piano is used for more than making the spectacle more bizarre (“The Sheep Song” and “The Mouse and the Model,” particularly). The Psychedelic Furs’ cover of “Pretty in Pink” is good, but “Lonesome Organist Rapes Page Turner” is a true piano-kicking saloon-burner in the Dolls’ signature style, with Palmer’s lyrical floodgates opened (“Silently I sat and turned the pages/recalculating our respected ages/over my shoulder, he muttered, if I get any older/you can hack my wrists off with your choice of objects, now I’m kidding”) and dawning on you like a Paul Klee, that there’s maybe, no, almost certainly, poetry in the gush. (Braxton Leeds)


Charlotte Sometimes— Waves & the Both of Us (Geffen)

In choosing a name already in use as the title of a book, song (by The Cure) and movie, New York singer/songwriter Charlotte Sometimes telegraphs a sorry lack of original thinking.  Waves & the Both of Us, her debut album, appears to be an attempt to create an Alanis Morissette for the Warped Tour crowd: rock-lite with Sometimes’ enticing warble transmitting vaguely feminist/insipidly “controversial” lyrics. Any eccentricities, any individual human “wrongness” if you will, in the songcraft and arrangements have been surgically removed in this built-by-committee creation. Hiring outside co-writers for over half of Waves’ horribly backfires, their contributions only coming over as cynical attempts to Frankenstein all currently successful female pop artists: “AIEOU” apes Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle”; while “How I Could Kill a Man” hints at Nelly Furtado’s “I’m Like A Bird.” Albums like this are why major labels are flatlining. (Paul Rogers)


Curt Smith—Halfway Pleased (Kook Media)

Now we know which Tears for Fears member wrote more compelling tunes (hint: it sure wasn’t Curt Smith). The duo put out Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, a stellar reunion album, in 2004. Now Smith has returned with solo effort Halfway Pleased, a banal follow-up to his mildly rocking Mayfield project a decade ago. Co-producer Charlton Pettus and drummer Fred Eltringham had a major hand in Ending, so you’d think this disc would at least be tolerable. Wrong! Inspired by family and friends, several songs contain bizarre lyrics. “Aeroplane,” all awash in luxurious keyboards, finds Smith cooing, “all I want is a wet dream/ice cream.” Huh? Dreamy opener “Perfect Day” could be a lullaby if it weren’t for one particular couplet: “this is the perfect day/to blow myself away.” The lightweight title track floats by with skeletal vocals, unobtrusive programming and piano akin to Howard Jones’ new age fluff. Pillowy soft “Greatest Divide” and “Coming Out” (Smith utilizes an on-the-verge-of-tears falsetto) are pleasant at best. Could do without the prog-rock styled synth solos. Not all the material is fresh, either: some of it dates back to a 2000 EP, Mayfield and Ending. For diehard fans only. (George A. Paul)







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