The Dresden Dolls’ previous CD, Yes, Virginia
, was divided between jagged punk outbursts and torch ballads; the latter found Amanda Palmer in a surprisingly world-weary mood. True to its title, No, Virginia
is the emotional opposite: this is a pop album with a warm, inclusive tone. The songs largely celebrate the artist/misfit subculture that the Dolls have gathered around them; in this context, the cover of the Psychedelic Furs’ “Pretty in Pink” fits perfectly, and it’s faithfully done, with an accordion standing in for lead guitar. That song is also a good complement to the sympathetic character sketches that Palmer writes here, though her twisted side appears on “Lonesome Organist Rapes Page Turner,” which starts as a bad-date story but takes a more sinister turn. As music, the disc makes a good intro for anyone who hasn’t yet succumbed to the Dolls’ charms. The hooks and melodies are kept up front, and Palmer and drummer Brian Viglione get their fullest studio sound to date — a bit of studio echo and the occasional vocal overdub work wonders. And at last there’s a home for “Boston,” Palmer’s torchiest ballad and a long-time live highlight. No, Virginia
ranks with Elvis Costello’s Taking Liberties
as a B-sides/leftovers album that turns out to be more fun and more revealing than a thought-out official release.