Their debut was captivating, revitalizing, and manic, seamlessly melding cabaret, torch, and rock styles with macabre confessional lyrics. Yes, Virginia is the follow-up from what once seemed an unpredictable band; sadly, everything on it is predictable. The song structures are standard fare. The band's all-around sound, once so full and dynamic, is so pared down, it's right on the edge of being tiresome. Even die-hard Brigadiers don't want to listen to "The Jeep Song" over and over.
The opener, "Sex Changes" -- an explosive study in identity crisis -- comes closest to the punk-infused "Girl Anachronism." No band wants to be pigeonholed, but sometimes trailblazing means not milking the cash cow. Yet the Dolls don't seem in it only for the money: They promote fan-friendly photography and recording opportunities at shows. Problem is, those fans aren't there just to see the average three-chord rock band.
On the other hand, as tepid as the new release may seem, with Amanda Palmer's imaginative ivory-pounding and poignant lyrics, and Brian Viglione's drumming, sometimes at metal speed, the band just couldn't be average. Hear the proof on "My Alcoholic Friends" and "First Orgasm."