Sunday, 24 March 2013

My plan to become Amanda Palmer's Coin-Operated Boy

Amanda Palmer

There are some songs that you keep coming back to, and then there are the songs which keep coming back to you. The distinction is a subtle one but the difference between a tune you scroll through a playlist to find and a track you wake up yearning to hear or get excited about getting home and putting on. The Dresden Dolls' Coin-Operated Boy is one such track.

Filling the internet with further love for a band and a musician which last year received $1.2m in crowd-sourced funds from 24,883 fans might seem slightly pointless but the innovative and enthralling nature of this tune is too much to ignore. The song, released on The Dresden Dolls' A is for Accident live record in 2003, is essentially Amanda Palmer professing her love for a new-found coin operated boy - a prop that often features on stage with her. 

The live version I have begins with her telling someone to take off clothing and laughing and its a quirky, upbeat tone which prevails throughout. As the six-minute piano-led feast ensues Palmer explains how his "love without complications galore" puts the love of real boys to shame. She also explains in some detail how her "plastic fantasy" will keep her forever in the bedroom. Palmer's overt sexuality - she often talked about her bisexual love life prior to her 2011 wedding to Neil Gaiman and frequently appears on-stage in very little - allows her to weave an extra vigour into the track. She also uses repetition to sound mechanical and coin operated, as do the opening key strokes, which works well. 

But it is Palmer's versatility throughout which make this a simultaneously odd and engaging experience. Whether it's the squeal she lets out before she explains "I could even fuck him in the ass", the change in pace and tone when she explains that the "sad picture" she's painted is curious and, best of all, the laughter she breaks down into at the finale when the absurdity gets the better of her. 

By the end of the song, she has convinced me to seek the most severe plastic surgery since Leslie Ash got those huge lips and carve a slot in my arm from which Amanda can begin to operate me. I envisage my life, thrown in the back of tour buses, watching adoring crowds and being attacked each night endlessly. My joints would need oiling constantly and I'd like to have new clothes painted on me once in a while. 

While Palmer is a fantastic musician and the 36-year-old has made some great records both solo and with The Dresden Dolls, this remains a high point for the kind of character mainstream music is hideously bereft of. Often calling herself 'Amanda Fucking Palmer' she rubs plenty of people - including Nirvana producer extraordinaire Steve Albini who criticised her crowd funding approach - up the wrong way. But she possess the kind of care-free, incisive vigour that make her a performer you can't ignore. She's the kind of artist who receives the hero-worship this blog has perpetuated but is not afforded the credence for her superior musicianship other more earnest types get. Probably because she swears in her records. Tut tut.

If Palmer's world is one of passion, uncertainty and vicious opinion then sign me up. I wonder what two pence pieces taste like. 

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