Music Moment: Amanda Palmer, Surprisingly More Thought-Provoking Than I Suspected

Well, dang, Amanda Palmer, I did not expect this entry to turn out like this when I began writing. I always thought you rated as talented and fun, but not always for me, but once I had to start pondering you, I began to wonder if it might be that you hit a little too close to home? So thanks?

Amanda Palmer – Runs in the Family

“With me, well, I’m well,
well, I mean, I’m in hell,
well, I still have my health,
at least that’s what they tell me.
If wellness is this,
what in hell’s name is sickness,
but business is business
and business runs in the family…”

Here is a link to the official video for this really excellent track from her LP Who Killed Amanda Palmer, available through Roadrunner Records and produced by Ben Folds (also the album art is by Neil Gaiman … because they are dating, which I cannot comprehend). I’m not crazy about the video, so I’m not embedding it here. I think her showy, fitful histrionics kind of rob the song of its natural jumpiness and make it almost less nerve-wracking.

Amanda began her career with the Dresden Dolls, about whom the wiki has this nugget to say which for me says it all:

The two describe their style as “Brechtian punk cabaret”, a phrase invented by Palmer because she was “terrified” that the press would invent a name that “would involve the word gothic.” The Dresden Dolls are part of an underground dark cabaret movement that started gaining momentum in the early 1990s.

Brecht, punk, cabaret — I find these to be overused words, I stigmatize them because they drip with deliberate intellect, I kind of sneer at them, okay? However, that’s hypocritical as hell because I used terms like “dark cabaret” yesterday in describing Annie. Or is it? I don’t know because the Dresden Dolls never struck the right notes for me personally. I found them too … pat in their spin, in their self-styling. I should have loved them, being a fan of weirdness and steampunk and tinkly music and frankly some also pretty dark shit, you know, wink wink SEXWISE, is what I mean! …

I realized these Music Moment posts tend to run really long because I like music way too much, and can’t bear to only give you half the story on someone I think is really special, so click here to keep reading about Amanda Palmer and my queer little problems with her.

… but despite even our common kinks, I just never could get into them.

I am much fonder of Amanda Palmer’s wilder and I think maybe more heartfelt solo work, although I still find her onstage personality and even her videos a tough sell, which I am trying to wrap my mind around even as I admit it.

I guess I like a waifish, lost girl, which is not the persona that Amanda Palmer espouses as her stage self, whatever she is like personally. I don’t know if I identify better with that more overtly femme and even vulnerable type of hurt-me-save-me-just-pay-attention personality and so love them for that reason, or if they somehow awaken in me a perversely opposite number, like, “I will handle being the busty, snarky one, here, I will be the tomboy who barges in and solves your problems, you just sit there and look pretty and let me occasionally wreck you because sometimes your weakness makes me want to mercilessly stomp you ’til you squirm even as I recognize my own propensity for the same which only makes me want to beat you all the harder.”

Like, which even is it? I have no idea, because I can embody either at the flip of a coin. I am a piece of shit at the consistent feminist thing. I really suck at it. I flounder through it like I do every other social position of note, because I am no good at really sitting and admitting for sure what I feel about my identity, or where it fits in to the broader set of women as a whole.

In fact, I was downright miffed by this video for “What’s the Use of Wondrin’,” my favorite Amanda Palmer song, featuring Annie Clark who was yesterday’s Music Moment artist. I love this song because it is a purely creepy cover that brings out the underlying horror of the message of submission in the original song from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel! (emphasis theirs. not mine).

Amanda Palmer – What’s the Use of Wondrin’? feat. Annie Clark

Listen to the song without those images, and see how different it is. I hate this video because it makes a mockery of that position, of that hard-won submission. What the hell do you know about it, Amanda “Bossypants” Palmer? Just because being all riotous and shit comes to you naturally doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t find a sick pleasure in loving the wrong person, or even loving the right person in a really fucked up way. Is it so wrong to want to be totally taken care of, to for once in your life count on someone and allow them to set clear boundaries the transgression of which may occasionally result in punishment? (Oh, my god, I think I just heard Gloria Steinem’s jet start … yep, she is coming to get me…) But by the same token, I have to admit that I liked how weird and creepy the song was all along because I did recognize how ironically terrible its message was. So, I can’t have it both ways forever. Which is it going to be? We’ll see, I guess.

“So when he wants your kisses,
you will give them to the lad,
and anywhere he leads you,
you will walk.
And anytime he needs you,
you’ll go running there like mad;
you’re his girl
and he’s your fella
and all the rest is talk.”

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