Released on 8 March 2019, Amanda Palmer’s new solo album ‘There Will Be No Intermission’ is her most accomplished and mature album yet. Palmer returns to her classic punk-piano sound, heard in Who Killed Amanda Palmer (2008), this time with a ukulele, strings and a mixture of experimental sound effects behind her. The album is unapologetically politically charged at points, drawing on current issues such as climate change and fake news. Differing to her previous solo albums, the underlying tone of the album is incredibly dark with songs that tell stories of abortion, grief and struggling with motherhood. Everything is acutely personal.
I first discovered Amanda Palmer’s band, The Dresden Dolls, in 2014 as a teenager wanting to just scream along to angry punk-cabaret piano music. Since then classic songs such as “Girl Anachronism” and “Runs in the Family” have become somewhat personal anthems for me and I’ve seen Palmer live numerous times, both solo and in The Dresden Dolls. This entirely crowdfunded album has been highly anticipated and I’m thrilled to say it’s everything I hoped for and more.
The first full song, ‘The Ride’ is a melancholy waltz about life and death with an eery piano melody that reflects a haunted fairground. The message of this song is strong and explicit: “the alternative’s nothingness / we might as well give it a try”. The album seems to go full circle, returning to another haunted waltz-like song ‘Look Mummy, No Hands’, the album’s penultimate song. After one of the many quite ironic intermissions, Palmer launches into ‘Drowning in the Sound’. Written and released first during Hurricane Harvey, this song talks about climate change, the #MeToo movement and fake news with the lyrics “And the body politic is getting sicker by the minute / And the media’s not fake it’s just very inconvenient”. This song shows the urgency for political change and very much reflects the current political and environmental climate of the US.
Many songs on this album will be familiar to fans. The two ukulele songs, ‘The Thing About Things’ and ‘Bigger on the Inside’ have previously been released on Patreon – a crowdfunding art platform. Songs such as ‘Judy Blume’ and ‘Look Mummy, No Hands’ have appeared before on ‘An Evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer’ (2013), an album of Palmer’s live show with her husband, fantasy writer Neil Gaiman. Though this is the first album of original songs since her 2012 Kickstarter project, ‘Theatre Is Evil’ (with The Grand Theft Orchestra), most songs are fairly familiar and have previously been released, either as demos or live.
One song that particularly stood out to me was ‘Voicemail for Jill’. Palmer has written about abortion before, in the songs ‘Mandy Goes to Med School’ (The Dresden Dolls) and ‘Oasis’. These two songs took a comedic approach and the latter especially caused a lot of controversy when it was released. Palmer posted on Patreon about ‘Voicemail for Jill’, saying that writing about abortion is difficult and that she has finally written the song she wanted to write. She states “I have been trying to write this song since I was 17….my white whale of songwriting”. The song is touching and sensitive, written like a voicemail to a friend. She contrasts the experience of having a baby to going through an abortion, singing “The doctor won’t congratulate you / No one on that pavement’s gonna shout at you that your heart also matters”. This song shows how far Palmer has come, taking a serious and thoughtful approach to topics almost impossible to write about and doing it so successfully.
For me, the album’s final song “Death Thing” was the most anticipated. I first heard this when I saw Amanda live last year in Brighton. This song, which at the time didn’t yet have a title, evoked so much emotion in me that I fully broke down and messy-sobbed throughout the whole song. I related on an incredibly personal level and the lyrics seemed to pierce right through me. Amanda introduced the song last year by recounting a number of deaths she had recently dealt with, all people close to her. The song is about a kind of sick realisation that after losing close friends or family members, you’ve become “good” at dealing with death to the extent that nothing can hurt you, as in the refrain “Congratulations, you’ve really got this death thing down”. The song ends with launching into a powerful belt of “Jai Guru Deva Om”, to the same tune as “Across the Universe” (The Beatles), which the lyrics were taken from. For me, this song is a masterpiece and solidifies this album as her best yet.
Since becoming an avid fan of Amanda Palmer’s I had been anticipating a full solo album for years. This album exceeded my expectations and has left me excited for what’s to come. After playing two UK shows with her band in October 2018, she has hinted at another Dresden Dolls album, so there is definitely more great music to look forward to in the near future.
- Amanda Palmer begins her UK tour on 16 October. Dates and tickets can be found here.