After seeing punk cabaret duo The Dresden Dolls at Troxy in London last October I have now finally completed my collection of their records (at least as far as I’m likely to given the rarity of their self titled debut EP) with A Is For Accident.
For clarity this is the version currently available from the band in physical form and as released by 8ft Records in 2004 rather than the original version or later digital reissue, both of which had different bonus tracks.
Rather than being a complete album A Is For Accident is a collection of live recordings, both in front of audiences and in studio situations, mixing tracks that would find their way onto their later proper albums and a few otherwise unrecorded ‘rarities’.
The collection is bookended by songs that would become favourites of the duo’s back catalogue, Missed Me and Truce, but presented in a much more raw form.
Other tracks that crop up elsewhere in their oeuvre are Coin-Operated Boy and Mrs O, here presented in front of live audiences and these, along with the other songs recorded in this setting, show the band had a dedicated fan base well before Roadrunner Records picked them up (I’m still not sure why a label known for the likes of Slipknot, Trivium and Killswitch Engage signed them).
The other songs, while obviously less familiar on first listen, certainly match the themes that would be familiar to the Dolls’ fans but what really is most interesting here is the sound of the band.
Across the disc it all feels a lot more basic, really bringing the punk of their ‘punk cabaret’ to the fore far more than later recordings.
Amanda Palmer feels far less controlled both in terms of her vocal performance and piano playing. At its best this adds even more honesty and authenticity to proceedings, which is no mean feat given Palmer’s renowned openness as a performer.
At other points though it could probably be argued some of the untamed aspect goes a little too far and the tempering that occurred on their self-titled debut album certainly made for a more easily listenable sound for a broader audience.
Brian Viglione’s drums match this somewhat but more in terms of how his personality comes across.
Both live and on record a playful sense is present in Viglione’s playing across the Dolls’ career and here we can hear the beginnings of that, particularly in the tracks recorded in front of an audience though its not quite fully formed and there’s a sense that you can hear both him and Palmer finding the playfulness that marks their sound at its best.
Aside from Doll’s favourite Coin-Operated Boy, which already sees the band playing with the track for a live performance, the highlight of the collection comes on Will that shows the band’s early attempts at expanding their sound to create, even in this comparatively basic form, something more atmospheric and long form, with violins added to their piano and drums.
A Is For Accident then is really something for fans only but does provide a fascinating insight into the formation of the band’s trademark sound while also showing, for anyone in a new and upcoming band, how a sound can be tempered without losing the initial honesty and truth that should be the foundation of any band worth investing in.
This isn’t the version from this release but it is a live version of Coin-Operated Boy…