The Dresden Dolls come loaded down with an overabundance of shtick, from their self-appointed genre of "Brechtian punk cabaret" to their piano and drums step-up. It's amazing that they don't suck. Fortunately, beneath the angst and stage makeup is a genuine songwriter in the form of pianist/siren Amanda Palmer, as their second album proves. Palmer talks shit better than anyone this side of battle rap, and "Backstabber" (the album's best song) mixes wrath and hooks in equal portions. "Mandy's Gone to Med School" is an addition to the very small category of funny songs about abortion. Still, there's less creepiness and more beauty than before, revealing a gentler side of the band. But while there are some gorgeous songs like "Delilah," "Shores of California" and "Sing," these numbers serve to push drummer Brian Viglione farther in the background than he's been in concert or on earlier albums. Part of the Dolls' charm has been a result of their placing the drummer as an equal member of the band. Being ignored is a drummer's fate, but the Dresden Dolls have been so good at confounding expectations that it would be nice to see them dodge that one too.
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