Verdict: 2 / 5
‘Theatre is Evil’ is quite an ambitious work for an indie artist. Palmer raised over a million dollars via Kickstarter to record it and perhaps that sort of money allowed her to play around in the studio much longer. The album sprawls across punk, rock, pop and new wave whilst indulging her cabaret fantasies all the more. Despite raising all that dough, ‘Theatre is Evil’ does not live up to the hype. Prancing around in heavy make-up or wearing avant-garde garb cannot hide the fact that Palmer deals in style over substance and that ‘Theatre is Evil’ is an empty shell, a shell that hipsters and their engagé in the press can use to fill their own fantasies of ‘coolness’ with. Perhaps, they’re simply deaf to the mediocre; recipients of sub par artistry that cannot aim for mastery or aptitude only poor imitation.
The bottom line with this album is that it has no solid songs, merely mildly interesting pieces that have no real musical value besides playing into that unending cabaret, punk fantasy mentioned above. The hooks and melodies are few and far between with only Palmer’s rebellious vocal style used to impress listeners. ‘Smile’ is an example or template for almost all the mid-tempo, synth and piano tunes on the album, it’s overly dramatic, long, falling and rising for no reason other than to sound simultaneously grand and reckless but is ultimately redundant and superfluous. ‘Killing Type’ has a punk flavour but once again we find nothing beneath the surface. ‘Want It Back’ does have a cool synth intro but a boring vocal melody. ‘Grown Man Cry’ also has an intriguing beginning, with the guitar arpeggio and synth lines combining to create a great moody and sombre tonality but like so many tracks it is too lengthy.
The album is severely hindered by songs that play longer than is needed for pop rock tunes, six tracks on the album go over the five minute mark and when there is no strong melody or catchy riff or passage those five or six minutes stretch on forever. Granted the album has a quirky charm due to Palmer’s love of cabaret and theatre but tapping into grand or expressive styles and themes does not equal great music.