She’s ferociously female, fabulously flawed: she’s the self-proclaimed Amanda F*cking Palmer! She returns for more musical mayhem on her third solo album, her first in over six years, the eagerly-anticipated There Will Be No Intermission, which arrives Friday, March 8, 2019, thanks to Cooking Vinyl. For the über fan, it’s important to note that she is also independently releasing an artbook of narrative photography to accompany the album’s release, and it can be purchased on her website or at her upcoming shows.
So, what is there that Amanda Palmer cannot do? Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, New York Times best-selling author, film producer, activist and blogger, Palmer is an outspoken and ferociously creative woman who continuously dabbles in music, theater, and art. She first came to prominence as one half of the Boston-based Punk Cabaret duo The Dresden Dolls, though her solo career has proven equally brave and boundless. To date, she has released two solo discs: 2008’s Ben Folds-produced Who Killed Amanda Palmer? and 2012’s crowdfunded collaboration with the Grand Theft Orchestra, Theatre Is Evil. Her awards and accolades are as endless as her collaborative efforts and talents, and Amanda Palmer is as brutally prolific in her art as she is unabashedly blunt in her words.
For her third solo effort, There Will Be No Intermission, Palmer has chosen to work yet again with long-time producer and collaborator, Grammy Award-winner John Congleton (St. Vincent, Swans). As should be expected, the crowd-funded album doesn’t skimp and goes massive on bold, new material that was made with the help of some talented friends — including frequent collaborator Jason Webley, Programmer/Keyboardist Max Henry, Drummer Joey Waronker, and another longtime collaborator, Jherek Bischoff. What fans might be surprised to find inside the collection of 20 tracks — half of which are, ironically, intermission-worthy interludes — is a set of tearjerkers and deeply personal confessions that dip into the universal themes of love and loss.
Musically, There Will Be No Intermission opens to a fluttering atmospheric tension that flits like a faerie’s prance into the mood setter, “All The Things.” This is one of the album’s instrumental interludes, tracks that are short re-imaginings of its ‘proper’ tracks. In fact, many take their titles from the lyrical content of the original song that they represent. For example, an orchestral take on “Bigger on the Inside,” “You’d Think I’d Shot Their Children” is a sweeping, beautifully authored respite that would be perfectly suited to cinema.
Delicate piano dances into the album’s first proper track, “The Ride,” where Palmer vocalizes her brand of insightful, musical poetry. At just over 10-minutes, this is quite a journey, a soft step that gives voice to the roller-coaster of life — fear sitting beside hope, depression dancing with joy. The wistful intimacy that emanates from Palmer gives the song an even greater impact, as though she were performing her one-woman cabaret right in your living room. “Suicide, homicide, genocide, man, that’s a fuck-ton of sides you can choose from,” she quips in her characteristic dark humor, laughing at the audacity of the human condition.
“Drowning in the Sound” goes for a funkier vibe as Palmer laments the hypocrisy of American attitudes — how we want to petition for global change while we continually avoid opportunities for personal growth. With the world around us drowning in the sound of half-hearted protest, how is one to stay afloat? It’s a song that, lyrically, is best summarized in its final, impactful line: “You worship the sun but you keep feeding the dark.”
Ukulele begins the cautionary tale of “The Thing About Things,” which builds into something more, like a meaningless object that has suddenly gained sentimentality through its connection to someone we hold dear. This sits perfectly alongside tracks such as “Judy Blume,” a tribute to the best-selling teen author. Nearly every young girl that grew up in the ‘80s has the titular author to thank for much of their formative background, as Blume was equal parts mother, best friend, teacher, and Jedi Master. Here, Palmer pays homage to the legendary writer along with the comforting power of the written word, creating a piece that will resound heavily with any of Judy’s girls.
Palmer strokes her ukulele once again for the reactionary “Bigger on the Inside,” which stems from a tough time in her career, much of which was centered around the controversial poem that she penned to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the wake of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. A confession that despite her thick skin she still has episodes of weakness, she vocalizes her struggles in a format that is equal parts a reminder to herself to continue to rise above and an inspiration for others who have fallen on bad times.
The punctuated, emphatic pace of “Machete” accentuates an emotional release that was inspired by the loss of a close friend to Leukemia in 2015. Here, she vacillates between angsty choruses and intimate refrains, creating a contradictory ode to a man who Palmer has in fact called a contradiction. As if this was not heavy enough on emotion, next she dips into the tearjerker “Voicemail for Jill.” Centered around a friend’s trip to the abortion clinic, here Palmer carefully pens a track that goes for the deeply personal rather than rehashing any political or religious debates. Simply put, this is the loving voicemail from one friend to another, offering an auditory hug in a moment of great personal weight.
For the blunt “A Mother’s Confession,” Palmer takes the freneticism and stress of being a new parent and lays down a kind of stream of conscience confession to her foibles in motherhood. At over 10 minutes, it’s a lengthy disclosure, sure, but it’s an open look at the scatterbrained behaviors of an exhausted but well-intentioned new mom. Then, stemming from this topic, Palmer swirls into the merry-go-round of another piece of sentimentality, “Look Mummy, No Hands.” A reminder that we all need our mothers, here Palmer delicately laments: “How careless we are when we’re young.”
Ultimately, she concludes the entire collection with “Death Thing,” which despite its seemingly morbid title, possesses an air of celebration in appreciating and accepting the inevitable. Truth be told, there’s a cinematic scope to everything Palmer sets her mind to, a kind of larger than life-ness that belies her minimalist musical style. This is no different on There Will Be No Intermission, where Palmer is a forthright force to be reckoned with despite being a (mostly) one-woman show.
To appreciate Amanda Palmer, one must first embrace her perfectly imperfect style: she gets pitchy when she’s fevered, every note is not always in place, and sometimes she rambles. She’s more often than not beautifully askew, but for her it works because Palmer is a punk at heart. Her power is in her intellect and keen insight, her candid conversational quality, and her inability to conform or to self-censor. Some people hate her for this, while others appreciate that Palmer is endlessly unapologetic. And Palmer? Well, she just does not give a damn and that is what is so refreshing! For these reasons, Cryptic Rock give Amanda Palmer’s There Will Be No Intermission 5 of 5 stars.