“Pretty much everybody on earth has a threshold for how much to indulge an idiot who doesn’t know how to conduct herself, and I think Ms Palmer has found her audience’s threshold.”
Speaking of familiar face Amanda Palmer ’98, the reviews are in for Theatre Is Evil, the album she funded independently over the summer by taking to Kickstarter and somehow emerging with over a million dollars. Palmer recorded the album with the Grand Theft Orchestra, her latest backing band ensemble. If The Guardian is to be believed, the album “feels like sitting on the bed of your tattooed, far cooler cousin 30 years ago, while she tells you ‘all you need to know’ about music.” Sounds about right. Ben Folds, meanwhile, had this confounding opinion to report: “This record is as good as it gets. You’re going to shit when you hear it. It’s going to be around for ages. Otherwise, it’s total crap.” You can hear the album for yourself on Neil Gaiman’s site, or pay what you want here.
If you’re the visual type, observe Palmer’s gruesome new video for “The Killing Type,” in which her band performs in white in a bright white room before Palmer murders her lover and splashes it all red. (“I’m not the killing type, I’m not the killing type,” she pleads in the track’s lyrics.) If you’re squeamish at all, consider skipping it entirely.
But funding the album isn’t the only task Palmer bestowed on her fans. There’s also the matter of touring. (In a recent interview with TIME, Palmer declared plans to tour the album “for over a year, all over the world, pretty much every continent.”) So last month, in a post on her website, Palmer set out to crowd-source a string quartet and horn section in every city, promising to “feed you beer, hug/high-five you up and down (pick your poison), give you merch, and thank you mightily for adding to the big noise we are planning to make.” The post garnered over 400 comments, and they aren’t all praise. To many, like touring musician Chris Siebert, Palmer’s plea for free labor seemed lazy and insulting:
I’ve been a professional touring musician for 23 years, and I’ve never heard of you until today. With all due respect, your request for free labor sounds like a promotional gimmick dreamed up by a corporate republican who has no concept of the history of working people in this country. [ . . . ] I would expect this sort of exploitation from a record label, a retail chain, or a music venue, but it’s shocking coming from a musician.
Another commenter spoke up on behalf of hir entire country:
you are a cunt
all of Canada
Nothing, however, matches the sting of being bashed by noise rock messiah Steve Albini on his own freaking Electrical Audio message board. According to Pitchfork, Albini took Palmer to task for compromising “self-sufficiency and independence,” values on which he’s quite an authority (that’s not sarcasm), and called her “an idiot” who isn’t as good at her profession as “every band ever to go on tour without a slush fund or the kids who play on buckets downtown.” Here’s the full comment:
I have no fundamental problem with either asking your fans to pay you to make your record or go on tour or play for free in your band or gather at a mud pit downstate and sell meth and blowjobs to each other. I wouldn’t stoop to doing any of them myself, but horses for courses. The reason I don’t appeal to other people in this manner is that all those things can easily pay for themselves, and I value self-sufficiency and independence, even (or especially) from an audience.
If your position is that you aren’t able to figure out how to do that, that you are forced by your ignorance into pleading for donations and charity work, you are then publicly admitting you are an idiot, and demonstrably not as good at your profession as Jandek, Moondog, GG Allin, every band ever to go on tour without a slush fund or the kids who play on buckets downtown.
Pretty much everybody on earth has a threshold for how much to indulge an idiot who doesn’t know how to conduct herself, and I think Ms Palmer has found her audience’s threshold.
Albini’s comment is scathing, hilarious, and borderline troll-like, but nothing matches the scorching genius of his tirade against jazz. Still, the guy wrote At Action Park…
Is Palmer being an idiot and taking advantage of her fans’ loyalty and generosity? Or is she merely making use of a new generation’s understanding of musical production and distribution in the age of Kickstarter? Read the artist’s candid follow-up letter and decide for yourself. I’m still waiting for her to come back here and perform “The Wesleyan Fight Song.”