“With her new album, Emilie Autumn makes her Broadway intentions ever more clear. Like her live stage show, this is not rock, not for radio, not for MTV. This is musical theatre, rock opera, and proud of it. Experience just a taste of the epic journey that mirrors Emilie’s autobiographical fantasy novel, ‘The Asylum For Wayward Victorian Girls’.”
All words and music written, performed, recorded, and produced by Emilie Autumn in The Asylum. Mixed & mastered by Ulrich Wild in The Wilderness.
Another recommendation, Emilie Autumn Lidell, a Los Angeleno singer came as a complete unknown quantity, with one unheard album, Opheliac, some six years behind her. With a visual image between Marilyn Manson, Lady Gaga and Cirque du Soleil, the sound is a genre-busting mix of electro pop, Broadway musical and Brechtian polemic.
With vocals somewhere between Gaga, Pat Benatar, Madonna, Pink and Hazel O’Connor, opener Fight Like a Girl is a particularly bloodless piece of upbeat electro pop. Not only does it lack the edginess of Gaga, but it lures you, unsuspecting, into an ambush.
Time for Tea is pure bombastic theatrical pop musical, Gothic Phantom of the Opera with a touch of Kurt Weil, The Threepenny Opera and a Tim Burton cartoon. It has the percussive thump and synth strings (couldn’t afford the full orchestra on this) of a Danny Elfman soundtrack.
What Will I Remember is Emilie’s bid for a slot with Andrew Lloyd Webber on Broadway or the West End stage. It’s here you realise the girl can clearly sing a ballad.
Take the Pill goes all Depeche Mode until the angry, expletive-laden break begins the album’s descent into hell: physical and emotional abuse, psychiatric doping, depression and suicidal tendencies. That’s just the listener.
Girls! Girls! Girls! temporarily reverts to jolly Cabaret-style burlesque, but the lyrics drop us into a carnival freakshow: ‘they’re hot, they’re nuts, they’re suicidal’. Mental illness features hugely in this album. This is Lerner and Lowe busting out of the Asylum.
I Don’t Understand is a catalogue of domestic violence. “What’s this morbid obsession for the suicidal girl?” is quite the question. It harks back to Ophelia, Emilie’s original inspiration.
So it goes; the ‘Circus of Horrors’ in We Want them Young rolls into If I Burn, full of Kate Bush vocal swoops, with creepy harpsichord backing and industrial clanging that continues into the Kurt Weil, low-life underworld of Scavenger. All seven minutes of it.
Heartbreaking harpsichord ballad Gaslight comes as an Act III curtain-up number and one of the quieter moments, the sweet sound and Piaf warbling undercut by the lyrical obsession with insanity, torture and death.
The Key is a tense, Edgar Allen Poe tale of escape from the asylum, but by now, Emilie’s mannered styling of Les Mis is getting wearing and unfortunately Hell is Empty is a lie; we’re stuck in it with a Goth vamp showgirl and what sounds like a real orchestra. And some bats. So instrumental track Gaslight Reprise comes as a blessed relief.
Goodnight Sweet Ladies is a triumphant escape from all that and not before time, with Emilie’s vocals multitracked into her own chirpy songbird choir. But that’s not the end. Start Another Story comes as a reprise and even that’s not the end. One Foot in Front of the Other is the epilogue, a triumphal march that goes on just a bit too long.
This is the concept album of a show that’s not yet been staged. Just as well, as I can’t imagine who’d go and see it. If you’re a depressive, death-obsessed fan of Les Mis and Sondheim, this could be the album for you. SC
Related: Review – Lady Gaga ‘Born This Way‘