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Album review

Amanda Palmer

This album was again crowdfunded and is the first new album (there have been tracks here and there) from AFP since the classic ‘Theatre is Evil’

There are 20 tracks here, of vastly different lengths…not at all conventional – this is quite something to digest!

There is no full band in the opening tracks, just AP, piano and a few side effects. It is quite heavy listening – after the instrumental opening we get a 10 plus minute track ‘The Ride’ which appears to be a rumination on modern LBGT politics and the risks of coming out in a marginalised society (America in 2019) – AP’s voice is downbeat, breaking at times, and reflective, and the piano playing is typically brilliant, and digs deep into memories and family ties, including child loss…not easy)

‘Drowning in the Sound’ racks things up a bit, with stop/start piano motif, “compass in my arm” and some Prince-esque tropes – this is vintage AP, doomsday scenarios but now with responsibilities, very interesting indeed…the instrumentation is quite brilliant… and the sound dynamics… “like a broken record, as if anybody knows what that is…”, wow!

Track 5 is atmospheric mood music, leading into the uke-led ‘The Thing About Things’, a heartfelt memory of some actual things – then it mutates into a full-throated vocal and electronic synth backing, very dynamic but spare use of it, an indication that AP can go full throttle if she wants to, then we are back to just her on the uke.

After another short instrumental track ‘Life’s A Bitch etc” we are into ‘Judy Blume”‘ – is this self-biography? Hard to tell. Slow piano, before waking up into some beautiful chord patterns and deep memories…

After another short interlude we are onto track 10, an 8 minute epic starting with the voice and ukelele, this is a dark tread into AP territory, deeper and deeper… there is more resounding emotion and personal self-analysis with deep drones against the strumming, and it very effective, cathartic possibly, but the voice is still the thing…This is a complex song, a torch song as song, and quite scary – possibly one of the best things AFP has ever done. Still a hard listen…

The title track of the album is short, instrumental and hints of further bad and heavy shit to come in the second half – a crap intermission in other words!

‘Machete’ is very full-on, and has strings backing, closest so far to the TIE instrumentation, with some bass as well, this is horror territory….

After instrumental ‘You Know The Statistics’ we are into ‘Voicemail For Jill’ which BM previously reviewed – not an easy listen, enough said.

‘You’d Think They’d Shot Their Children’, nice title, a very sun-drenched wash of sound…

Another ten minute track is ‘A Mother’s Confession’, mainly about AFP’s son Ash, every parent has been in many of these situations but is funny to hear AP singing about this new territory… She previewed this track at her Edinburgh Liquid Room show in late 2016, and it is quite funny – “at least the baby didn’t die…”

After another instrumental break ‘Saying Not To Panic…’ we have “‘Look Mummy No Hands’ another memory… of fairground rides, and childhood…

Another deathly instrumental (‘Intermission Is Relative’) comes before last track ‘Death Thing’, which is a classic AFP ballad…

Not exactly uplifting, the piano chords are downbeat – so we are talking about death here… AFP’s playing is amazing, as usual, but the electronic buggery drowning the piano out signals a death, but who is to blame? “You’ve really got this death thing down” – and this brings the curtain down, still so much to digest but probably AFP’s best work yet.