Album Review: Amanda Palmer- Ukulelehead


Amanda Palmer’s Ukulele Tribute to  Radiohead

The Dresden DollsAmanda Palmer has been involved in some odd projects since the band went on hiatus (or broke up, depending on who you ask).  For instance; the macabre photobook companion to her solo album Who Killed Amanda Palmer? There’s also the play she helped write and produce at her old high school in Lexington, Kentucky.  Then there’s her oddest endeavour; Evelyn Evelyn, a musically gifted pair of conjoined twins (played by her and Jason Webley).  Her latest release is a little easier for the mainstream public to swallow.  Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead on her Magical Ukulele (fondly called Ukulelehead) is just what it sounds like; a seven song EP of Radiohead covers, on a ukulele.
Taking a hint from Radiohead themselves, who released their last full length album, In Rainbows as a “pay what you can” digital download, Ukulelehead is available for a minimum of $0.84 on Amanda’s website, As she recently emancipated herself from Roadrunner Records, any payment above $0.84 goes directly into her pocket.  She’s also taken a page out of pal Trent Reznor’s book by offering all sorts of special (and sometimes expensive) packages including vinyls, t-shirts, hand-painted ukuleles, iPhones, personal Skype sessions and more.
Any fan of the Amanda Palmer or the Dresden Dolls knows that she has a penchant for performing interesting cover songs in concert.  Songs by Britney Spears, U2, Black Sabbath, Beastie Boys and the Muppets have all made their way into her set lists in the past.  In fact, the Dresden Dolls cover of Radiohead’s ‘Karma Police’ is one of their best, but sadly does not make it on to this album.
Amanda has a strong, emotive voice that needs little accompaniment.  It’s no surprise then, that most of the songs on this EP rest solely on her vocals and the ukulele.  Some arrangements, like ‘No Surprises’ cheat a little by adding in substantial piano work.  ‘Exit Music (For a Film)’ seems to lack ukulele entirely, though it might just be buried under the epic layers of piano and violin.
Though both versions of ‘Creep’ are live recordings (one “hungover” in Berlin, the other in Prague) there is little noticeable difference between these and the studio recordings on the EP.  Amanda’s imperfect voice is always kept raw and real, which is one of the most endearing things about her music.  She makes no attempt to hide the fact that she can’t hit Thom Yorke’s ridiculously high notes in both versions of ‘Creep’ and ‘High and Dry’.
I don’t think anyone has made ukulele music this fun and interesting since Cookie Monster played (and subsequently ate) one on my old Sesame Street cassette tape.  While most of Amanda’s covers stay fairly loyal to their original arrangements, there is a lot of creative merit in this EP.  At such a cheap price, you’ll definitely get more than you paid for too.


(Original publication: Bring Back the Boom Box Magazine- Aug 19 2010)


About J2

What happens when you're a wordsy music aficionado who works for NXNE, CMW, HPX, Olio Music Festival, The JUNOs and Polaris Music Prize? You spend all of your free time blogging about it... Follow on Twitter if you're so inclined: @HearPlugged

Posted on March 7, 2011, in Album Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: