The Dresden Dolls are an American musical duo from Boston, Massachusetts. Formed in 2001, the group consists of Amanda Palmer (vocals, piano, harmonica, ukelele) and Brian Viglione (drums, percussion, guitar, vocals). 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," and are part of an underground dark cabaret movement that started gaining momentum in the early 1990s.

 

Career

The duo formed shortly after Brian Viglione witnessed Amanda Palmer performing a solo at a Halloween party. Their live performances soon gained them a cult following. During these performances the two band members often wear dramatic make-up and fancy clothing which push their cabaret/theater aesthetic. They encourage fans to become involved at their shows, with the fans' own stilt walking, living statues, fire breathers and other performance art becoming an integral part of the show. The Dirty Business Brigade coordinates the fans' performances.

The name, according to Palmer, was "inspired by a combination of things", including the firebombing of Dresden, Germany and the porcelain dolls which were a hallmark of pre-war Dresden industry; an early song of the same name by The Fall; and a reference to the V. C. Andrews novel Flowers in the Attic where the classically blond and blue-eyed protagonists are called "the Dresden dolls." The name also evokes Weimar Germany and its cabaret culture. Additionally, she "liked the parallel between Dresden (destruction) and Dolls (innocence, delicacy), because it is very much in keeping with the dynamics of the music, which sometimes goes from a childlike whisper to a banshee scream within a few seconds."

The duo was featured in a webcast performance at the 2002 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony in Cambridge, MA. After a self-promoted demo, their first release was the mostly live compilation A Is for Accident (Important Records), followed in 2004 by a self-titled debut produced and recorded by Martin Bisi (Swans, Sonic Youth) at The Old American Can Factory in Gowanus, Brooklyn. The album features fellow Boston-area musicians Ad Frank (guitar on "Good Day") and Shawn Setaro (bass on "Good Day", "Gravity" and "Jeep Song"). Two songs off the album ranked in the Triple J Hottest 100, 2004, "Girl Anachronism" at #30 and "Coin-Operated Boy" at #12. In 2003 they were crowned the winners of Boston's long-running WBCN Rock & Roll Rumble.

On October 6, 2005 The Dresden Dolls were interviewed by the subject of one of their songs, Christopher Lydon, on the radio show Open Source.

In March 2005, the duo supported Nine Inch Nails on tour. On June 5, 2005, The Dresden Dolls hosted a free concert at the Paradise Club in Boston. When a power outage unexpectedly delayed their performance, city streets became a temporary stage for some of the many performers (living statues, stilt-walkers, and fire-breathers) who had come from across the world to entertain audiences. The entire event—both concert and street performances—was filmed and the resulting DVD, Live: In Paradise, was released on November 22, 2005. The Dresden Dolls' second studio album, Yes, Virginia..., was released on April 18, 2006. Over the summer of that year, the duo performed at South by Southwest, Bonnaroo, Britain's Reading and Leeds Festivals, and Lollapalooza, in addition touring with the rock band Panic! at the Disco as their opening act. During the support tour, the band presented "Fuck the Back Row - A Night of Celluloid Vaudeville". The events consisted of screenings of short films from friends and fans, performances by local artists, and a solo show by Palmer who performed mostly cover songs inspired from film soundtracks.

In June, 2006, the Dresden Dolls Companion,was released by Amanda Palmer. The book contains a history of the band and their first album - The Dresden Dolls - as well as a partial autobiography. The book also contains the lyrics, sheet music, and notes on each song on the album, as well as a DVD featuring a 20 minute interview with Palmer about the writing of the book.

On August 16, 2006, the East Providence Community Theatre in East Providence, Rhode Island premiered a full-length, fan-written musical titled, The Clockwork Waltz, featuring songs from The Dresden Dolls' three albums. The show was encouraged by the band and their management.

In December, 2006 and January, 2007, the music of The Dresden Dolls was featured in an original production - The Onion Cellar - at the American Repertory Theatre's Zero Arrow Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The play is co-authored by duo member Amanda Palmer, from her original concept.

Since January 14, 2007, the duo has been on a temporary hiatus. Palmer is working on the solo album, Who Killed Amanda Palmer, while Brian Viglione toured with Boston-based HUMANWINE, Jesse Malin, offered drum clinics, and performed with various local Boston groups.

In June, 2007, they toured with the True Colors Tour 2007, including their debut in New York City's Radio City Music Hall, and their first review in the New York Times.

On July 10th, 2007, the DVD, Live at the Roundhouse, was released in the U.S.

For two weeks in December 2007 and January 2008, they will be on tour finishing up at The Norva in Norfolk, Virginia.

On January 15, they plan to enter the studio to record their third album.

 

Discography

 Studio albums

  • 2003 - A Is for Accident
  • 2003 - The Dresden Dolls
  • 2006 - Yes, Virginia... (#42 US, #41 Austria, #138 France)

EPs

  • 2003 - The Dresden Dolls
  • 2008 - Untitled

Singles

  • 2003 - Good Day
  • 2003 - Girl Anachronism
  • 2004 - Coin-Operated Boy
  • 2006 - Sing
  • 2006 - Backstabber
  • 2007 - Shores of California

Compilations

  • 2005 - "Coin-Operated Boy" on album A Dark Cabaret (Projekt Records)
  • 2005 - "Coin-Operated Boy" on album Triple J Hottest 100, Volume 12
  • 2005 - "Coin-Operated Boy" on album Krock2
  • 2005 - "Pretty in Pink" (cover) on album High School Reunion
  • 2006 - "Life on Mars" (cover) on album 2. CONTAMINATION: A Tribute to David Bowie
  • 2006 - "A Night at the Roses" on album A Users Guide To The First 100 Important Records Releases
  • "Girl Anachronism" on album Hellcar #14

 DVDs

  • 2005 - Live: In Paradise
  • 2007 - Live at the Roundhouse

 

Music videos

Note: Clicking on the link leads to YouTube presentation of music video.

Video Album Recorded in Director  
"Good Day" The Dresden Dolls 2003 -
"Girl Anachronism" The Dresden Dolls 2003 Michael Pope
"Coin-Operated Boy" The Dresden Dolls 2004 Michael Pope
"Sing (The Alternate Cut)" Yes, Virginia... 2006 Michael Pope
"Sing (Chapter II / Original)" Yes, Virginia... 2006 Michael Pope
"Backstabber" Yes, Virginia... 2006 Michael Pope
"Backstabber: The Dresden Dolls vs. Panic! at the Disco" Yes, Virginia... 2006 Michael Pope
"Shores of California" Yes, Virginia... 2007 Andrew Bennett

Awards and Honors

  • 2005 - WFNX/Boston Phoenix Best Music Poll, Best Local Act and Best Local Album.

See also

  • Evelyn Evelyn
  • Dark Cabaret
  • List of Dark cabaret artists
  • World/Inferno Friendship Society
  • The Tiger Lillies
  • Klaus Nomi
  • Salon Betty
  • Gavin Friday
  • Nina Hagen

 Bibliography

  • Dresden Dolls Companion, by Amanda Palmer, eight foot music publishing, June, 2006, ISBN 157560888X ISBN 978-1575608884