By Al Kaufman
Thankfully, nobody on the planet flies their freak flag higher than Amanda Palmer, and even she needed to find a longer pole for her latest endeavor, Evelyn Evelyn; ukulele-playing conjoined twins who share “three legs, two arms, two hearts, three lungs, and a single liver.” Palmer, a punk-cabaret force of nature joined with minstrel accordionist and guitarist (and “soul sister”) Jason Webley to create the story of the girls whose mother died at birth. They spent time living in the coop of a chicken farmer, served as prostitutes to their many “uncles,” joined Dillard and Fullerton’s Traveling Circus where they rode the world’s only conjoined twin elephants while playing ukulele. They eventually discover the Internet, and are discovered on MySpace by Palmer.
Their story is told through three deliciously deadpan tracks that make the Lemony Snickett books seem like slapstick by comparison. The remaining nine songs expound on the girls’ story through a variety of genres that range from ragtime and show tune to indie pop and country. Then, of course, there is the 80’s power ballad, “My Space,” (in which Frances Bean Cobain, Palmer fiancee Neil Gaiman, Weird Al Yankovic, Margaret Cho, and others all contribute minimal background vocals just so they can say were were part of this extraordinary undertaking). It is a brilliant commentary about online networking (“I just want to friend the entire human race.”) that even gives a nod to theme from Cheers. Yes, the song is the singly best thing on the CD, but nothing on here is less than great. The country-tinged “You Only Want Me ‘Cause You Want My Sister” is hilariously depressing, “Have You Seen My Sister Evelyn?” is fun and vaudevillian. And their ukulele rendition of Joy Division’s “Love Will Keep Us Apart” is so utterly heartbreaking that it makes the original sound like it was played for laughs.
With Evelyn Evelyn, Palmer and Webley have created a gloriously politically incorrect masterpiece. They harmonize as if they have known each other their whole lives, and their instrumentation is deceptively complex. Most of the moody music sounds like it came straight out of a David Lynch or Tim Burton film. It’s eerie and moody, daring you to think it’s uproariously funny. Palmer has always wanted to disturb as much as she wanted to entertain. She has succeeded here beyond even her own wildest dreams, or nightmares. Evelyn Evelyn is the record of the year.
Evelyn Evelyn begin their tour in Boston on on April 12. Then they are off to Europe before they return to the States in late May. Will Palmer and Webley perform as conjoined twins? Will they bring out chickens? How the hell are they going to pull this whole thing off? The only thing we know for sure is it will be original, entertaining and well worth the price of admission.