Funded by a Kickstarter campaign that raised over a million dollars, post-punk cabaret ringmaster Amanda Palmer's first outing since 2008's Who Killed Amanda Palmer is bursting at the corset seams with the kind of feral yet laser focused energy that can only come from someone with the moxie to list themselves in the credits with the word "fucking" in between their first and last name. Palmer and her Grand Theft Orchestra build Theatre Is Evil on a foundation of retro-neon concrete (the 1984 Robin Williams, Soviet-era comedy Moscow on the Hudson is referenced at one point) with delinquent panache, giving nods to 'Til Tuesday and Kate Bush ("The Killing Type"), David Bowie ("Grown Man Cry"), the Knack ("Melody Dean"), and even Alphaville (the intro to "Want It Back" threatens to explode into "Forever Young" before morphing into a summery, upbeat radio jam that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the Cars' Candy-O). The band then skips ahead a decade on the beautiful, string-laden epic "Trout Mask Replica," which recalls Tori Amos as filtered through Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness-era Smashing Pumpkins. While all of the comparisons are apt, they merely delineate the project; they don't define it, as Palmer has proven time and again, both as a solo artist and fronting the Dresden Dolls, that she's a wily and innovative, albeit divisive, force of nature, and Theatre Is Evil bristles, crackles, aches, and moans with surprising efficiency considering its 15-song length, pairing fractured synths and staccato guitar riffs with Palmer's throaty, untamed pipes, sounding for all the world like a brazenly cool, alternate-universe version of No Doubt.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger