“I told you,” my ex-boyfriend would eventually say to me, months after we broke up and I had already listened to the album, No, Virginia three times over, and was quoting their song lyrics in Facebook posts—clearly obsessed.
“They are so ridiculously good.”
The Dresden Dolls were a band I subconsciously refused to listen to for a while. I’m not exactly sure why that was.
All I knew of the band was that the singer, Amanda Palmer, wore a devious smirk on her face in pictures online and adorned questionable painted-on eyebrows. I knew that in April of last year, she wrote a controversial poem on her blog, shortly after the Boston bombings titled A Poem for Dzhokhar, that many dubbed self-serving and narcissistic. I knew that a lot of people didn’t like her. On the contrary, I also knew that she had a cult-like following. And for whatever weird reason, I associated images of The Cure and “Goth culture” with the band, assuming their sound was similar. For the record, when they were still a band, they went by the genre Punk Cabaret.
But none of this really mattered.
It wasn’t until the guy left me, that I actually decided to plug in my headphones and give them a chance.
It was somewhere in the middle of the song Boston where I felt like I couldn’t breathe. No, I’m not kidding. Amanda managed to steal my breath from me with each sorrow-ridden word. I had experienced her entire failed relationship in that one song; another woman in Amsterdam, a canceled trip to Scotland, memories “thick as bloody marys.” She grabbed me by the hand and took me through the highs and lows of that period of her life. That time of her life when she briefly lived in the south end of Boston. She made me see everything. She made me feel it.
We’re keeping track so carefully, we’ve missed the state we’re in completely.
What captured me most about the song was the sense that time was actually waning for these two people, and a place (Boston) was the only thing keeping them together; a place that by no means is a New York or L.A., but means something unique to those who have ties to the city. The lines of the verses struggled to be sensible, and were often cynical, while the chorus was pure vulnerability and possibly delusion. It pleaded with you and begged you to stick around:
Because right now we’re here in Boston. I’m in love with Downtown Crossing. New York will still be there in the morning. Come back to bed my darling.
This past winter was a lonely time for me, but I had The Dresden Dolls there to keep me company, devouring album after album and eventually graduating to Amanda’s solo stuff. Amanda told me on the track The Perfect Fit: “I’m not exceptionally shy, but I’ve never had a man, who I could look straight in the eye and tell my secret plans.” And somehow, I knew exactly what she talking about. Conversely, she saw right through me in the lines of Delilah, or so I imagined: “In this same bar, where you slammed down your hand, and said ‘Amanda, I’m in love.’ No you’re not, you’re just a sucker for the ones who use you.”
Amanda was my friend and confidant, even though I didn’t actually know her personally. She put concise words to my vague thoughts time and time again with utter perfection (The girl can fucking write). Making me feel less weird and less crazy, with every song filled with honesty and confession. The Dresden Dolls also made piano cool for me again–I adore the fast and sometimes choppy way Amanda plays. And though the boy who dumped me proved to be an asshole, he introduced me (unintentionally) to what is now one of my favorite bands. And I can’t pretend that I don’t genuinely appreciate that.
And maybe we’ll wake up, in a city far away. Or maybe we’ll make up, and buy a house and have a dozen kids who’ll move away, it doesn’t matter anyway.
Right now we’re here in Boston.