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Freak Magnet

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Album Review

The Violent Femmes' first album of new material to be released in the U.S. since 1994's muddled New Times (not counting the 1995 Australian release Rock!!!!!, reissued stateside in 1998), Freak Magnet is a pleasant surprise in its focus and consistency, marking yet another return to the group's folk-punk roots — the punk side of the equation in particular. Gordon Gano plays electric guitar for much (though not all) of the record, turning in a series of concise, catchy pop nuggets punctuated by a romp through free jazz saxophonist Albert Ayler's R&B tune "New Generation." Although Freak Magnet doesn't really break new ground for the Femmes, it's a neat encapsulation of the most effective variations on their signature sound, featuring misfit anthems (the title track, "I'm Bad"), plaintive heartache ballads ("All I Want"), thrashy punk-pop ("Sleepwalkin'," "Mosh Pit"), gospel ("Rejoice and Be Happy"), and folk-pop ("Forbidden"). There's a bit of filler here, but it's agreeable and good-humored, and the memorable moments outweigh it by a wide margin. Freak Magnet isn't really an artistic rebirth for the Femmes, but it is a good, solid album and a welcome return to form. [In 2005 Shout Factory reissued Freak Magnet with the live bonus tracks "Rejoice and Be Happy," "Freak Magnet," and "Positively 4th Street."]

Biography

Formed: 1982 in Milwaukee, WI

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

The textbook American cult band of the 1980s, the Violent Femmes captured the essence of teen angst with remarkable precision; raw and jittery, the trio's music found little commercial success but nonetheless emerged as the soundtrack for the lives of troubled adolescents the world over. The group formed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the early '80s, and comprised singer/guitarist Gordon Gano, bassist Brian Ritchie and percussionist Victor DeLorenzo; Ritchie originated the band's oxymoronic name, adopting...
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