Violent Femmes

Violent Femmes (Slash ‘83) Rating: A-
Discovered busking on a street corner by The Pretenders’ James Honeyman-Scott, the Violent Femmes debut album has sold steadily over the years, becoming something of an alternative classic in the process (surely you’ve heard “Blister In The Sun,” right?). This eccentric group has a unique “folk punk” sound that owes an obvious debt to the Velvet Underground and the Modern Lovers, with Gordon Gano’s nerdy whine somewhat recalling Jonathan Richman, and the band struck a chord with lonely teens experiencing similar travails of desperate unhappiness and depressing heartache. What gives this band a unique twist on such downtrodden themes are that terrific tracks such as “Blister In The Sun,” “Kiss Of,” “Add It Up,” “Prove My Love,” and “Gone Daddy Gone” each sport catchy sing along choruses and have an overall bounciness that makes the pain go down easy. Unfortunately, the music matches the despondent emotions on “Confessions” (“I’m so lonely, feel like I’m gonna crawl away and die”) and “To The Kill” (“they had no fun...”). These odes to loneliness are awfully depressing, and I much prefer the band’s more upbeat moments to their strained dirges; fortunately, the percentage works heavily in my favor. Brutally honest and funny “did he really say that?” lyrics (example: “why can’t I get just one fuck, guess its got something to do with luck”) are another notable band attribute, and though the band’s musical repertoire is rather limited, they’re very good at their singular style, which in addition to the aforementioned influences is also often solidly rooted in r&b (Gnarles Barkley even later covered “Gone Daddy Gone”). The tunes never get too loud (the beautiful ballad "Good Feeling" is especially delicate) and the band rarely expands upon their spare acoustic base (though several songs are electrified), which has a raw, unhinged edge to it that, along with Gano’s “acquired taste” vocals (perhaps best exemplified by the somehow-still-good “Please Don’t Go”), all but ensures that the band will never escape the confines of cultdom.

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