AMANDA PALMER plays the Phoenix Friday (November 9). See listing. Rating: NNN
It's impossible to talk about Amanda Palmer's first post-label album without getting sidetracked by how it was made: the excitement generated by her raising more than $1 million through Kickstarter, and then the backlash after she tried to get string and horn players to perform onstage for free. In theory, none of this should affect the music, but she's as guilty of making this the centrepiece of her story as anyone else. And in the end, it's the doing-it-for-the-fans approach that's responsible for both the best and worst aspects of the album.
Without a label to tell her no, Palmer is free to chase any impulse she wants to, which has resulted in her most overtly rock album yet. This is closer to glam rock than cabaret pop, and it's lushly produced - maybe a little too lush. Palmer seems intent on cramming as many ideas and textures into every song as she can, which is exciting at first but exhausting by the halfway point of an excessively long album. On the other hand, while that lack of restraint won't win her many new listeners, it's exactly what her rabidly devoted fan base coughed up a million bucks for.
Top track: The Bed Song