On the piano, “pianist” was much less an appropriate title for Palmer than “percussionist.” Looking back to the songs of the Dresden Dolls, the keys of her piano were heavy and she hammered them, treating the piano like the percussion instrument it can be, and creating a distinctive Amanda Palmer sound. The piano is softer on Theatre Is Evil, completely missing on some songs, gracefully caressed on others, like “Trout Heart Replica” and “The Bed Song.” Beyond the piano, another of Palmer’s standout traits is her vocal phrasing; breaking sentences (and sometimes words) in their middles and stringing their ends together. Where this would be intensely frustrating in spoken conversation, she uses it to mold the words to the rhythm of the songs, and the song to the words.
Still another is the content and subject matter of her lyrics. AFP continues to challenge an industry laden with songs of romances superfluously succeeding or of romances dying messily by using trout fishing metaphors. She writes songs about an eccentric named Berlin and about the ease with which people in our culture talk about killing other people.
The truth is, Theatre Is Evil is not something that everyone will love, or even appreciate. Amanda Palmer herself is a brash and sassy maven about whom accusations of a flair for the dramatic would not be unjust. She is not one to sit idle while life happens, she happens to life and that comes through in her music. She does not bow to convention and because of that, she and her music are an acquired taste. But if you are among those who have developed that taste, or are willing to give it the old college try, Theatre Is Evil is definitely worth your money – however much of it you want to spend. But do spend something. It is worth even $1 to get the four bonus tracks (19 in total), liner notes and title lettering stencil that comes with it.