Amanda Palmer: Goes Down Under

Pandering is not always a bad thing. Pimping one’s self and music as a way of entertainment is a form of performance art with a long-honored tradition.

Amanda Palmer

Goes Down Under

Label: 101 Distribution
US Release Date: 2011-02-01
UK Release Date: 2011-02-01

Like many people, I became an Amanda Palmer fan after seeing her perform in concert. Her charming personality, visceral beauty, boundless enthusiasm, and willingness to take risks—not to mention her eagerness to do just about anything to please her audience—made her a difficult act to resist. Therefore, the fact that Palmer has just released a live album makes sense. Actually, the disc is not completely live; she has includes three studio tracks for reasons not exactly clear, but almost all of the songs on Goes Down Under have Australasian themes and concerns.

Of course, the term “down under” also suggests something a risqué, which is reified by her picture on the CD’s cover, wearing nothing but a pair of knit panties with the design of the New Zealand flag. Sexual teasing has always been part of Palmer’s persona, so perhaps it is no surprise that the first song features Palmer singing and playing the ukulele on the old Eddie Cantor chestnut “Makin’ Whoopee.” She does the song straight and lets the sly lyrics about love, marriage, and marital responsibilities speak for themselves. The live audience heartily approves. Palmer happily engages the crowd. A good time is had by all. This cycle repeats itself on all the live tracks, with different audiences in both Australia and New Zealand.

Yes, Palmer panders to her fans. She sings a self-penned song called “Australia” and one about the national dish “Vegemite” (as well as including a singalong to the Vegemite theme song, “We are Happy Little Vegemites”) to an Australian audience. And she also performs one called “New Zealand” to a Kiwi crowd. She knowingly banters with the audiences about local subjects.

Of course, Palmer takes things a bit far with “Map Of Tasmania”, which equates a woman’s pubic hair with the Australian island at the bottom of the continent because of their shared delta shape. Pandering is not always a bad thing. Pimping one’s self and music as a way of entertainment is a form of performance art with a long-honored tradition. Palmer has always been a performance artist who works with conceptual media. This remains true.

The studio cuts are integrated in the mix, so the listener just sort of falls into the tunes. She covers New Zealand songwriter Peter Jeffries’ somber “On An Unknown Beach” between two light and cheerful live tracks approximately half way through the disc, which keeps the album from getting too buoyant. “On An Unknown Beach”, somewhat reminiscent of the Australian post-apocalyptic novel On the Beach because of their bleak descriptions of desolation, provides a weighty counterbalance to frivolity.

But Palmer goes right back to having fun. The crowds at the live shows clearly enjoy themselves and make themselves vocal. Even on the last cut, when Palmer covers the legendary Aussie musician Nick Cave’s sneering “The Ship Song”, the Aussie audience goes wild (when she’s done after maintaining a respectful quiet throughout the performance). They are Amanda Palmer fans. They know what to expect and appreciate it when it is delivered. This disc may not attract those who have always found Palmer a bit affected and showy. She still is. But she clearly knows how to please an audience and understands the importance of more than just playing to the crowd.







A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Prof. Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.


The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.


Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.


Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.


HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.


Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.


Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.


'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.


'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.


Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.


DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.


JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.


​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.


Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times


Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.


How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.


Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.


Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.