Amanda Palmer linked up with The Grand Theft Orchestra, stitching together each entity’s dark beauty to make the sweeping, burgundy satin expanse that is Theatre Is Evil. Much of this record seems to reflect on our current cultural norms, (instant gratification), and those that have been par for a while (drunken sleepover parties). A lot of the analyzation is spouted blatantly with tongue wedged in cheek, cloaked in hi-fi production and chamber instrumentation.
Theatre opens in the dramatic way you’d expect, as if a mustachioed man in tails stood on atop a stool, megaphone to mouth.
“Smile (Pictures Or It Didn’t Happen)” centers mostly on the socially affirming aspect of social media, also dipping into a fear or mortality, realistic nightmares and California. It’s an epic stomper, a velvet rope lattice, with grand movements and a climax worth waiting for. When that peak finally builds and teeters at the near-falsetto top—with just under a minute to spare—thudding keys and tom drums nudge the groove back to plateau.
It took a few listens to “Do It With A Rockstar” for it to click for me. At first it felt both raucous and obnoxious. It’s not just some guy trying to bed a chick based on his hip swivel prowess. What we have here, guys, is almost a parody. It calls out the formula a lot of us (guilty) tend to follow in moments of arguable weakness (“sexually frustrated”). “Do you wanna dance?/ Do you wanna fight?/ Do you wanna get drunk and stay the night?/ Do you wanna smoke till our throats are sore?/ Make out, then talk, then make out some more?” He’s spelling out exactly how it can and often does work, nearly cracking into a laughing fit at the one minute mark when he proposes. He offers a way out, several times. “Or do you wanna go back home?/ Check your messages and charge your phone?” But she can’t pass. Maybe it’s not a weakness at all, but instead a pattern—something that comes in phases, not indicating poisonous tendencies. It drips with impermanence and necessity.
“Grown Man Cry” stands out lyrically. It’s incredibly sad, revealing the unravelling of a long-term relationship. Palmer’s dealing with a stubborn, emotionally in touch partner. The verses revisit a common reality in romantic endeavors: The qualities that first attracted you to a person are the same that eventually grate on your nerves, eyes and heart as the bright, burning bond slows to crumbling ash (“Once you get your mind made up/ There’s really no getting through to you/ For a while it was touching/ For a while it was challenging/ Before it became typical/ And now it really isn’t interesting/ To see a grown man cry”). She’s down on love, suspecting most male declarations of “feelings” to be total BS, attempts to score BJs. It’s a relatable track, whether or not a man has recently shoved your heart down a smelly garbage disposal.
The Balkan influence on “A Grand Theft Intermission” plays gorgeously, bedazzled with brass and hard-ringing keys. This record isn’t simply a record, it’s an emotional, intricate experience that keeps on after the instrumental break. Be smart and whip up a cocktail or green tea or something during this two-minute ditty and prepare to dive back in on the ride. It’s a doozy, but a wholly worthwhile one.