The Dresden Dolls could never be accused of being shy and retiring, but on their second full-length, Yes, Virginia..., they sound more confident than ever, igniting their cabaret-rock with more crazed inventiveness and you-are-there immediacy. While there's nothing as instantly captivating as their first album's winsome "Coin-Operated Boy" or the defiant "Girl Anachronism," Yes, Virginia... is a more powerful and consistent set of songs overall, moving from musically and emotionally complex ballads like "Delilah" and the album closer, "Sing," to shouty, forceful numbers such as "Necessary Evil" and "Sex Changes." Sean Slade and Paul Kolderie's production adds to the bigger, more rock-inspired sound of the album, which invigorates Amanda Palmer's character sketches. While the highly theatrical, stylized sound of the Dresden Dolls might seem to be the substance of their music -- and, admittedly, it does draw the listener in right away -- it's the strong songwriting that makes the band truly impressive. Palmer's lyrics have a mix of sympathy and disdain for the people and subjects in her songs that makes them seem very honest in spite, or perhaps because of, their theatricality. On "Backstabber," she dismisses a "greedy little fit-haver" with a "God, I feel for you, fool" that's a perfect blend of fury and pity. She goes after and celebrates uncomfortable moments, whether it's cataloging the drunken haze of "My Alcoholic Friends" (which is one of the jauntiest, poppiest distillations of the Dolls' sound to date) or "First Orgasm," a bleak and almost creepily intimate ballad that's not at all jokey despite lines such as "I'm taking matters into my own hands" and "there won't be any second coming." Full of ambitious twists and turns, equally vulnerable and sarcastic, Yes, Virginia... alludes to the famous 1897 New York Sun editorial that reassured a little girl that Santa Claus exists for a reason: as arch and ironic as the Dresden Dolls might seem on the surface, inside their music, there's a surprising amount of hope and heart.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares