Broken Porcelain: The Dresden Dolls punk up cabaret

What the hell is Brechtian punk cabaret? While it may sound like a name for an archaic form of angry German music, it is far from it. The Boston-based duo the Dresden Dolls will be at the 9:30 Club this Friday, Oct.27 to show you, and to support their latest album “Yes, Virginia.” The Dolls, just out of their busiest touring year yet, with performances at Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, spent the entire summer opening for the ever-increasingly popular Panic! At the Disco. As part of the Internet-music revolution, the Dolls have a plethora of music and video on the Web, most notably their video collaboration with Panic! for the Dolls’ song “Backstabber.”

Made up of Amanda Palmer (vocals, piano and toy piano) and Brian Viglione (drums, percussion, guitar and vocals), the Dresden Dolls joined forces in late 2000 as a continuation of the underground dark cabaret movement of the late 1990s. “What is cabaret?” you might ask. Well, what makes the Dresden Dolls cabaret is their use of heavy makeup, over-the-top theatrical performances. But don’t be fooled by titles, and (clich? time) absolutely don’t judge a book-and this one in particular-by its cover. The Dresden Dolls evoke the sounds of the While Stripes, Fiona Apple and the Fiery Furnaces all at once . not an easy feat. Palmer, the primary songwriter, has a knack for witty and meaningful lyrics, as well as brilliant yet catchy melodies.

The genre of punk cabaret is something Palmer was sure to adopt as soon as the Dolls began to gain their cult following in order to avoid being pinned with titles such as “gothic,” or “experimental rock.” An interesting choice, considering few have heard of the odd combination of punk and cabaret, and even fewer know what Brechtian even means. Brechtian acting and theater (and now music) involves avoiding the patronization of the audience by reminding them that what they are watching is not real life.think “Saved by the Bell” and “Malcolm in the Middle.” Not only did the Dolls choose a unique combination of musical styles, but their name itself is a rather ironic juxtaposition: Dresden refers to the destruction of Dresden, Germany in World War II, a town whose primary industry before the war was making porcelain dolls. Dolls, of course, refers to the innocence and fragility of those porcelain dolls. With their porcelain-painted faces and dissonant, compelling melodies, a more fitting name could not have been chosen by Palmer and Viglione.

So.what the hell is Brechtian punk cabaret? It’s the Dresden Dolls, in all their theatrical, pale-faced, toy piano clanging glory. Palmer and Viglione succeed in avoiding the normal punk angst feel of most other artists of the genre (punk.not cabaret), mostly because of their unique approach to performance and their immense musical talent. The music is brilliant, the performance is entrancingly entertaining, tickets are only $20, and it will be the most one-of-a-kind band to come to the 9:30 Club in recent memory.

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