Top 10 Songs By The Dresden Dolls

Top 10 Songs By The Dresden Dolls

Feature Photo: Kyle Cassidy (identity confirmed), CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons

Our top 10 songs from The Dresden Dolls shift our attention to the music catalog of one of the most revered acts of the early 2000s Boston music scene. Established in 2000, The Dresden Dolls distinguished itself from the pack of diverse ensembles in the Boston music scene with its cabaret punk sound. The Dresden Dolls, a duo, consists of lead vocalist and pianist Amanda Palmer and drummer Brian Viglione. However, each member of the duo has additional instrumentation responsibilities.

While Amanda takes on the harmonica and ukulele, Brian on the other hand handles the bass and guitar roles. For the better part of the 2000s, the duo remained active entertaining cabaret punk fans with alluring piano-driven songs. With the duo’s music standing quite unique, its members were quick to clarify their musical style describing it as a Brechtian punk cabaret. Nevertheless, the band has had its music classified by many as dark cabaret, a genre more popular in Western Europe back in the ‘80s.

Origins Of The Dresden Dolls’ 

Formed in 2000, The Dresden Dolls had its name inspired by a song of the same title issued by the post-punk ensemble The Fall. However, the title also acknowledges the duo’s German music influences. One year after the formation of The Dresden Dolls, the duo issued a self-promoted demo recording which would be followed by an eponymous debut studio album in 2003. The Dresden Dolls was issued through 8 ft. Records but was later re-issued in 2004 through Roadrunner Records.

The duo’s debut studio album is home to some of the best songs from The Dresden Dolls including “Coin-Operated Boy,” “Girl Anachronism,” “Good Day,” “Half Jack,” and “Missed Me.” The Dresden Dolls was issued under the production of Martin Bisi who is renowned for his work with Swans, White Zombie, and Sonic Youth. The album remains the duo’s best-selling release selling over a hundred thousand copies.

In 2006, The Dresden Dolls issued their sophomore studio album, Yes, Virginia… with hopes of achieving even greater success. Among the personnel featured on the album’s production work is Paul Q. Kolderie who is best known for his work with Radiohead, The Go-Go’s, Pixies, and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Yes, Virginia… is home to musical gems by The Dresden Dolls including “Sing,” “Backstabber,” and “Shores of California.”

The album was a mainstream success rising to a peak position of number forty-two on the Billboard 200 Chart. Yes, Virginia… also made it to the Australian, Belgian, Austrian, and German Albums Charts stamping The Dresden Dolls’ rising popularity. While the duo enjoyed mainstream success with this album, the commercial gains were minimal. This saw Roadrunner Records pull away from supporting the duo’s album, a move that would cause tension between the label and the duo.

The Dresden Dolls would later issue its first compilation album, No, Virginia… in 2008. No, Virginia… featured “Boston,” “The Gardener,” and “The Kill,” songs that had earlier been recorded during studio sessions for the duo’s sophomore LP. Like the aforementioned three hits, all the other songs on this compilation album included earlier recorded materials that had not been released. Surprisingly, No, Virginia… made it to the mainstream, peaking at number ninety-four on the Billboard 200.

What Happened to the Dresden Dolls?

After the release of their compilation album No, Virginia…, The Dresden Dolls went on hiatus with drummer Brian Viglione confirming the rumors. The duo has intermittently had reunions playing in a number of shows/tours. Their biggest reunion, which was slated for 2020, was tossed off following the Covid-19 pandemic. This was quite a huge loss for the duo’s fans owing to the anticipation they had towards a promised new studio album that has never happened to date.

The Dresden Dolls’ Other Musical Pursuits and Legacy

Despite its shallow catalog of songs, The Dresden Dolls are one of the biggest acts in the cabaret punk scene. During its active years, the duo gave us an uncensored thrill with their love for music which always got fans asking whether The Dresden Dolls are a couple. Lead vocalist Amanda Palmer would confirm to the fans that it was all “rock love” between them and nothing more than a theatrical affair. The Dresden Dolls’ painted faces and cabaret attire added to the duo’s theatrical appeal. Such an approach is not strange with bands such as Slipknot wearing masks as part of their identity.

Since the duo’s hiatus in 2008, its members have sought other musical pursuits. Brian Viglione joined the folk punk band Violent Femmes between 2013 and 2016. Viglione was part of the personnel featured on Violent Femme’s 2016 album We Can Do Anything. On the other hand, the 2010 Boston Music Awards Artist of the Year, Amanda Palmer went on to start a solo career in 2008. Over the years, The Dresden Dolls have toured with eminent artists including Panic! at the Disco, Cyndi Lauper, and Nine Inch Nails. Here we present the ten best songs by The Dresden Dolls of all time.

#10 – Sing

Ushering us to the top ten songs from The Dresden Dolls is the marvelous hit “Sing.” The song is featured on the duo’s sophomore studio album, Yes Virginia… “Sing” was issued as the first single of the duo’s sophomore studio album. Amanda Palmer’s lyrics to this song are both beautiful and meaningful — her voice also is also incredible.

The song’s mood doesn’t bring out the best of Brian’s drumming skills which are best highlighted in the loud and aggressive music. However, his slow yet precise guitar blends in perfectly with Amanda’s piano tunes. “Sing” was covered by the American jazz and bebop artist Veronica Swift on her 2021 release This Bitter Earth.

#9 – Half Jack

The debate about nature versus nurture’s impact in determining human behavior has remained dilemmatic over the years. In The Dresden Dolls’ hit “Half Jack,” lead vocalist Amanda Palmer delves deeper into this question. Her concerns are issued on the line of the hypothetic situation where one makes a hyperbolic excuse that nothing is their fault citing genetics to be the major determiner of their cause of action.

“Half Jack” is a song inspired by Amanda’s life growing up without the closeness of her father following a divorce between her parents. Despite barely knowing him, Amanda cited in an interview that she still had some of his mannerisms. This freaked her out and after quite some quiet battle within herself, Amanda comes to ‘the conclusion’ of being half of her mom and half of her dad on this hit. The lyrical depth of “Half Jack” makes the song quite touching giving us a reason to feature it on our top songs by The Dresden Dolls.

#8 – Good Day

Coming in at number eight on our ten best songs by The Dresden Dolls is the stunning hit “Good Day.” The song was the debut hit by The Dresden Dolls, issued on the duo’s eponymous debut studio album. “Good Day” brings us to a perfect platform where we can talk about Brian Viglione’s excellence on the drums. His energetic drumming style brings the best out of Amanda’s aggressive vocal delivery.

Amanda’s aggressive (yet intriguing) vocal delivery is in line with the song’s lyrics which seems to serve its listeners with a piece of her sarcasm though. Apparently, the singer wishes to show her ex-lover that she is living a better life. However, we all know that taking out the trash and taking up croquet isn’t the most fun and convincing thing to show how happy you are to an ex-lover!

#7 – Backstabber

“Backstabber” is one of the best songs from The Dresden Dolls’ album, Yes, Virginia… The song finds The Dresden Dolls’ lead vocalist Amanda Palmer calling out a former lover/ally for his previous misconduct. Amanda reveals through this song’s lyrics how the ally/lover never supported her pursuits but now that everything seems to have played out as she wished, the ally/lover seems perturbed.

His insecurities are plainly visible with bitterness and insecurities seemingly taking over. Amanda reveals that her ally/lover (the subject in the song) had his own share of success but used it to take advantage of his fans. Now that Amanda’s career seems to be burgeoning, he fears that she will do something like that too. The Dresden Dolls released a second music video of this track featuring members of Panic! at the Disco.

#6 – The Kill

Number six on our top 10 songs from The Dresden Dolls is the charming hit “The Kill.” The song is one of the brightest cuts off the duo’s compilation album, No, Virginia… “The Kill” starts off with lyrics almost identical to the opening lines of the 1976 hit “Anarchy in the U.K.” by The Sex Pistols. Once again, Amanda’s lyricism and great vocal delivery catapults this hit to fan favorite status. You ought to love Amanda’s skills on the piano in this song.

#5 – Bad Habit

The Dresden Dolls, the duo’s debut album is home to the fifth pick of our top ten songs from The Dresden Dolls, “Bad Habit.” “Bad Habit” is one of the band’s staples for live performances. The song brings the best of Amanda’s expressive vocal delivery and Brian’s amusing drumming skills.

Away from the song’s on-point delivery, “Bad Habit” has rather its lyrics rather confusing to its fans. For quite some while, the duo’s fans have associated the song with self-harm. However, the song’s writer revealed in an interview that the song’s lyrics were motivated by her “Bad Habit” of nail biting.

#4 – Shores of California

“Shores of California” is yet another musical gem from the duo’s sophomore studio album, Yes, Virginia… The song brings out the duo’s ability to deliver melodic ballads with an infectious sing-along chorus. “Shores of California” has some of its lyrics centered around the argument about gender roles and how that’s changing with the current generation. The song’s music video imitates David Lee Roth’s version of The Beach Boys’ 1965 song “California Girls.”

#3 – Girl Anachronism

We now move up to the top three hottest songs by The Dresden Dolls and welcoming us to this space is the gorgeous hit “Girl Anachronism.” The song is one of the earliest releases featured on the duo’s eponymous debut studio album. “Girl Anachronism” brings out Amanda’s feeling of being out of place.

The singer tells of her sentiments about being forced to be someone she should not be. “Girl Anachronism” is one of the best shots at excellence in the cabaret punk scene by The Dresden Dolls. The duo’s impressive performance on this song crowns them the true legends of the cabaret punk sound. “Girl Anachronism” made it to number thirty on the Triple J Hottest 100 in 2004.

#2 – Coin-Operated Boy

The rock scene has seen some artists question more about human-robot bonding from Gary Numan in “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” to Duran Duran in “Electric Barbarella.” And now, The Dresden Dolls gives us a taste of “Coin-Operated Boy,” a song whose lyrics are inclined towards human-robot themes. “Coin-Operated Boy” was a song penned by Amanda Palmer with its lyrics alluding to the pros of animatronic devotee/boy.

Wishes made by Amanda are fuelled by her desires for intimate and unadulterated affection and loyalty which seems to be a tall order for humans. With human-human interactions becoming too tough to maintain, Amanda wouldn’t be the only one wishing for a “Coin-Operated Boy.” The song’s relatable themes and amazing delivery made it quite a hit for The Dresden Dolls. “Coin-Operated Boy” made it to number twelve on the Triple J Hottest 100 in 2004.

#1 – My Alcoholic Friends

Number one on our list of the ten best songs from The Dresden Dolls is the sizzling hit “My Alcoholic Friends.” “My Alcoholic Friends” might feel like an erratic pick for the top spot but true fans of The Dresden Dolls find it no surprise. The song is featured on the duo’s compilation album, No, Virginia… Since its release, “My Alcoholic Friends” has risen to fan-favorite status overtaking some of the duo’s signature hits.

“My Alcoholic Friends” is an ode to alcoholism bringing out the alcoholism as an anti-depressant measure to many. The move for Amanda and ‘her friends’ to appreciate alcoholism is the desire to escape the realities of day-to-day life. Once again, it is the highly relatable lyrical content of this track that catapulted it to success.

Top 10 Songs By The Dresden Dolls article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022

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