The Dresden Dolls come loaded down with an overabundance of shtick, from their self-appointed genre of "Brechtian punk cabaret" to their piano-and-drums set-up. Fortunately, Virginia
proves that underneath the angst and stage makeup is a genuine songwriter: Amanda Palmer. The pianist-siren talks shit better than anyone this side of battle rap; "Backstabber," the album's best song, mixes wrath and hooks in equal measure. But there's less creepiness and more beauty than before (even though "Mandy's Gone to Med School" is an addition to the very small category of funny songs about abortion), which shows a gentler side of the band. Yet gorgeous songs such as "Delilah," "Shores of California" and "Sing" push drummer Brian Viglione farther into the background than he's ever been in concert or on earlier albums. Part of the Dolls' charm has always been how they make the drummer an equal within the band. Being ignored is a drummer's fate, but the band has been so good at confounding expectations that it would be nice to see them dodge this typical move.