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Amanda Palmer’s excruciating universe

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Amanda Palmer’s flair for melodrama has carried her through the founding of The Dresden Dolls, her marriage to Neil Gaiman and numerous speaking tours. When word leaked that her new solo work was a 74-minute conceptual rock opera on identity and motherhood, the dangers of angsty overplay seemed real. Surprisingly, There Will Be No Intermission (Cooking Vinyl) often works well. Provided the ukulele solos and piano trills don’t become monotonous, one could consider this album a hybrid of the overwhelming sadness of Mount Eerie’s A Crow Looked at Me and the complex storytelling of Laurie Anderson’s United States.

When Palmer raised $1.2 million on Kickstarter for 2012’s Theatre Is Evil, critics mocked the accompanying bombast, calling her the “future of music.” This album does not take music to radical new frontiers, but tells frank, complex and heartbreaking stories. The longest tracks are best. “The Ride” sets an early tone with a 10-minute lament suggesting Richard Thompson’s “Wall of Death,” while the equally long “A Mother’s Confession,” repeats the eerie line, “at least the baby didn’t die.” Palmer’s newest work demands to be taken seriously.

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