Amanda Palmer is no stranger to controversy. Her first band, The Dresden Dolls, was known for its dark and macabre themes. She often ventures into the taboo in all that she creates, from her experience with date rape to terrorism. The Daily Mail once published an entire article on her wardrobe malfunction, inciting her to write “Dear Daily Mail.” Her most popular creation is the "Ukulele Anthem," an ode to simplistic art.
Since the release of her fully crowdfunded album, "Theatre is Evil," in 2012, Palmer has experienced her fair share of trauma. She lost her best friend to cancer, had a medically-ordered abortion, a miscarriage, depression and was continually lambasted by the media. As goes life, there were also periods of joy: She gave an acclaimed TED Talk, wrote a bestselling book, "The Art of Asking," and had her first child.
What of this is detailed in her newest record? All of the above.
In her third studio album, "There Will Be No Intermission," Palmer invites the listener inside her mind. The record begins with a wordless instrumental tune – these tunes bookend every lyric track. Each wordless song is a subtle reprise of the preceding song's choruses, the familiar notes drifting in and out like an evanescing ocean wave. A cello’s crescendo, a timid reprise of a familiar melody, an up-and-down trill like a mouse scurrying down a spiral staircase – all with circus-esque toy piano sounds reminiscent of Palmer's time with The Dresden Dolls.
Everyone's too scared to open their eyes up/
But everyone's too scared to close them/
Everyone's frightened they don't know what's coming/
But everyone's frightened of knowing
These lyrics from “The Ride” begin the record on a timely note. Palmer’s voice is blunt. She sings like she is merely talking to you. Palmer chooses to weave her horror with the U.S.' current political climate with the notion that this is the future for her son: “Some are too scared to let go of their children/And some are too scared now to have them."
After an instrumental interlude is another slightly political piece, “Drowning in the Sound.” The track is more focused on the state of the Earth as a whole: “They're all so busy yelling/Not one of them is hearing/The hissing from the bottom of the boat.”
All their infections and prescriptions and the will to live at all in question
Can I not accept that my own problems are so small?
You took my hand when you woke up
I had been crying in the darkness
We all die alone but I am so, so glad that you are here
You whispered: "We are so much bigger on the inside, you, me, everybody
Some day when you’re lying where I am you’ll finally get it, beauty."
A common theme exists in “The Thing About Things” and “Bigger on the Inside:” Palmer’s relationships. In “Things” she remembers her grandfather and how she learned to love him after his death: “And if you’re not allowed/To love people alive/Then you learn how to love people dead.” Meanwhile in “Bigger,” she discusses how her best friend – who was suffering from cancer at the time Palmer wrote the album – and a fan who is a survivor of rape, put her seemingly minuscule problems into perspective.
Palmer says she spent her "whole adult life trying to write" the song "Voicemail for Jill." She describes the pain of abortion in a “voicemail” for a friend who is going through one. Through her lyrics, Palmer removes the stereotypical images often associated with abortions and focuses on cost.
In “A Mother's Confession,” Palmer lets her guard down to sing of the beautiful and grueling hardships of motherhood. This and “Jill” are the album's best. Palmer's rawness is hard to summarize in words other than her own.
“Look, Mummy, No Hands” uses a fair ride analogy to detail the change in her relationship with her mother – from joyfully riding a carousel in childhood, then becoming a ruthlessly independent teenager and finally being a single mother, each verse ends with “how careless we are when we’re young.”
She closes the album with “Death Thing,” in which she reflects on how she “really has this death thing down," given the waterfall of tragedy that recently fell upon her. This record is real; it is fearful and joyful and nostalgic and horrific. As she says, “everything is relative and everyone's related”; we all feel grief, and are more unified because of it.