A primal, turbulent and artful slice of pop, the new Amanda Palmer record has won my heart. Theatre Is Evil's first song is a wall of well-defined noise that, I'll admit, had me throwing my fist in the air when no one else was around. It was the same feeling I had hearing David Bowie's "It's No Game" from Scary Monsters more than 30 years ago.
With the highest money-raising musical Kickstarter project ever, Palmer — and her fabulous new band, The Grand Theft Orchestra, with producer John Congleton — captured lightning in a bottle. The result will do more than just energize the almost 25,000 fans who helped make it possible. To be honest, I've admired Palmer but was never in the class of dedicated followers, until now: Theatre Is Evil is genius, savvy pop filled with smart storytelling that won't let go.
So how does this monster sound translate to the Tiny Desk — without the strings, the horns, the big drums and studio alchemy? The answer turned out to be simple: As all good songs do when stripped naked, they worked perfectly. Palmer pulls off just the right proportion of being in your face without being didactic. There isn't the sort of vagueness I hear in so much pop prose; these songs' fervor is the product of a singer armed with intensity and musicians who can match it.
- "The Killing Type"
- "Want It Back"
- "Ukulele Anthem"
Producer and editor: Bob Boilen; Audio engineer: Kevin Wait; Videographers; Christopher Parks and Mito Habe-Evans; photo by Kainaz Amaria/NPR