Amanda Palmer has made a living out of delivering emotionally sobering strikes. From her early street performing days dressed as an 8-foot bride handing flowers and intense eye contact to passers-by through her current album cover, where she stands completely full frontal naked wielding a sword overhead, Palmer has always demanded we see her and feel something. You don't get to call yourself "Amanda F****** Palmer" for nothing. But Palmer's latest album, There Will Be No Intermission, may be her sharpest blow yet.
The album contains songs about climate change, compassion, losing a friend, losing a baby, having abortions and becoming a mother. The songs ring out with urgency and compassion, fury and love. There are moments of stunning brutality and absolute gentleness. "It's the most personal thing I've ever made," Palmer told me. "There is a part of me just sitting there, clenching my teeth, going, 'I really, really don't want this one to be misinterpreted — I really don't want this one to be misunderstood.'"
Part of her fear stems from the way the media has reacted to her work in the past. We talk about why she feels that "there are some journalists out there who just love hating me." Palmer also shares stories of her own miscarriage and abortions, along with why it was important to her to write "Voicemail for Jill" about the latter. And she performs "The Ride," an opus that is equal parts haunting and comforting, with an aftertaste that lasts far longer than the song's 10-plus-minute duration.
Palmer's work, and even her very presence, are not for the faint of heart or cynical of spirit. During our time together, about halfway through performing the very first song, "Drowning in the Sound," Palmer smashed her forearm to the keys of a Steinway with the brute force of a heavyweight champion boxer. Moments later, she stood over the piano and yelled into its body, as if howling into the intergalactic void, as she will continue to do on her upcoming tour. When it was all over, I couldn't help but feel I had just spent 12 rounds in the boxing ring of the human condition — bruised, tired, inspired, rattled and changed.