Guzzle the new Amanda Palmer album direct from the spigot at amandapalmer.net and download free bonus tracks immediately on a pay-what-you-want model? Whuddaya got for a chaser, crack rocks in the take-a-penny, leave-a-penny bin?
That’s right; the new Amanda Palmer album “Theatre Is Evil” finally spills the beans on that most Devilish of enterprises; what’s more, if you pre-order it now, you get a free bonus download of a Theatre Is Evil digital EP. For you old-school types, you can also order the thing on CD and vinyl.
Unfortunately, I’ve been trying to pre-order this thing all morning and, well…the servers are belching a little. I’m guessing that Ms. Palmer’s coin-operated robot fulfilment staff are issuing smoke clouds as we speak. I presume that’s testament to the army of fanatics that Palmer has built through the years in the way dedicated fan followings have always been built: in dark laboratories in Switzerland where unsavory compounds wrenched from the bowels of the earth are mixed in great vats to spawn a dangerous army of unholy nightmare beasts that dig cabaret music.
SRSLY, tho, Dresden Dolls singer Amanda Palmer has long been a pioneer in artist-to-consumer marketing, with social networking, viral culture and direct contact with her fans being part of her raison d’etre. She takes hefty commercial chances in order to get her work in front of her fans on their terms and hers, rather than corporate ones. That’s probably why, of the multiple platforms in which she’s releasing her solo album Theatre is Evil, one is the “Pay What You Want” model available at AmandaPalmer.net. You can also buy it at Amazon and iTunes, but if you get it right from Palmer, you’re going straight to the source, which is sort of like buying the artist a beer, or in Palmer’s case, a double absinthe red wine foxglove cocktail served in a pair of (someone else’s) black lace panties.
Wait, let me back up here.
It occurs to me that some of you may be unfamiliar with the esteemed Amanda Palmer’s “dark cabaret” band The Dresden Dolls, which appears to have invented the term “dark cabaret” to avoid calling itself Goth. (For this, I do not blame them. It was 2000. Goth was cheap back then).
Since Amanda Palmer is a savvy manipulator of social media, it troubles me to think that some of you may know the phenomenon, but not the music. In the world of social media, hype often overrides the genuine first-person experience of the arts and even eclipses it. That makes Bubba sad.
What makes Bubba even sadder is that I, yes I used to be the scary freaked-out weirdo at science fiction conventions, and now all these barely-legal snots who are even bigger dweebs than I ever was chirp the word “Steampunk!” like it means “Yeah, I know, right!?,” often as a precursor to self-righteously lecturing me on the proper etiquette for attending a crypto-Wiccan polyamorous semi-public fisting. Time was, I was the one who knew all about the best semi-public fistings in town. WTF happened!?!? Well, I got old and decrepit and now I feel like a Boomer father who just discovered his 14-year-old son reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and has to suppress the urge to slap that self-satisfied sneer off the smug punk’s face as he spends three weeks lacing every conversation with cryptic references to bats, attorneys and ether binges.
The thing is, social media has robbed culture of the very concept of esoteric knowledge, without even having the goddamn common courtesy to offer me a reacharound! How is snooty deathrock elitism to survive?
It will survive the same way it survived in the Good Old Days: Through social media. That’s the good news.
Mind you, back in the Good Old Days, the “social media” in question was a half-remembered conversation with a hot goth weirdo of indeterminate gender(s) at a house party in West Oakland or during a Crash Worship gig at 920 Gilman Street, all about the Legendary Pink Dots and Jim Carroll and Anton Szandor Lavey and Querelle and Danielle Willis and Un Chen Andalou and Lydia Lunch’s “I Fell In Love With a Ghost,” right before you vomited Pabst Blue Ribbon on your new best friend’s shiny pointy-toed boots.
And speaking of the Dots, on whom Amanda Palmer (rememer her?) reportedly based some of her early performances, the Legendary Pink Dots are one of those bands that I used to look for in my youth. I would crawl down H Street on my knees over hot coals and broken glass, fending off attacks from Tuareg tribesmen and roving packs of velociraptors, finally reaching The Beat only moments before I would have expired from malaria. There, I would be nursed back to health by snobby art school drop out clerks as I dug with bloody fingers in the hard-baked earth of the record bins, looking for Specimen, the MC5, Christian Death, Iggy Pop and yes, The Legendary Pink Dots — as if to verify that any of them actually existed in the first place.
That was before I learned that you could borrow your parents’ car, drive to San Francisco and not find Legendary Pink Dots on Haight Street — a much more satisfying experience.
I’m neither young nor high enough to pull that shit anymore, which is why I pen these words from a cafe that serves gourmet fair trade coffee and does me up complicated latte art as a matter of course. In those days Facebook did not exist, so it eventually became necessary for God to invent Himself.
Social media has kindly given esoteric knowledge a new lease on life, by making it not esoteric at all.
Except that culture itself is now and forever will be esoteric, because most people can’t be bothered to actually sit the fuck down, shut the fuck up and experience it. No amount of social media can change the fact that when you read a book or listen to an album complex enough (to you) to seriously start your emotional gears whirring and fizzing up inside your coin-operated boyhood, you’re engaging in a truly solitary enterprise. If the act of creation can be agonizingly lonely and isolating, then how much more isolating and terrifying is the act of genuinely experiencing deeply moving art that you can’t even be proud of yourself for creating?
That’s why so many people avoid experiencing art; too often, there’s so little payoff for listening and so much payoff for talking. The fact that many of us don’t have jack shit to say is sort of beside the point. Or maybe it’s that we all have plenty to say, but we don’t get around to really telling our stories because we spend too much time trying to figure out what the hell is going on all around us, feeling like we don’t measure up, and slowing ourselves down so that we can live in close proximity with other human beings without going batshit. Superficiality is a common strategy to deal with the very real dangers of feeling like a fool.
Blaming that on social media, of course, would be dumb. It’s not like superficiality wasn’t endemic in the eighties. Arts-related social media, whether fueled by Pabst and clove cigarettes or cell phones and computers, works better if one actually listens to the music, reads the books, watches the films…and pays attention.
Back in the Good Old Days, a pair of bondage pants and a black-lipsticked pout could get you as far as most people cared to go. Posers were everywhere and everywhere were posers. People who actually gave a shit about esoteric or unusual music, writing and art were as rare and precious as Klaus Nomi albums at Tower Records.
Back then, picking and choosing your culture required one to crawl across hot coals and broken glass.
Nowadays, it’s as simple as hitting “BUY NOW,” and then listening. Which actually turns out to be not that much simpler.
Not having heard Palmer’s new album because her damned robot army keeps fizzling (but I am still trying!! I swear I will hear that teaser if I have to fight the entire Cossack army!), I can’t say just yet how good it is. But I’d lay even money that this one is worth it making the effort.
So just do it, or the esteemed Ms. Palmer’s impoverished spouse may be forced to give up his dream of writing novels and rent himself out as a rodeo clown for kibble. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.