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Violent Femmes

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Album Review

One of the most distinctive records of the early alternative movement and an enduring cult classic, Violent Femmes weds the geeky, child-man persona of Jonathan Richman and the tense, jittery, hyperactive feel of new wave in an unlikely context: raw, amateurish acoustic folk-rock. The music also owes something to the Modern Lovers' minimalism, but powered by Brian Ritchie's busy acoustic bass riffing and the urgency and wild abandon of punk rock, the Femmes forged a sound all their own. Still, the main reason Violent Femmes became the preferred soundtrack for the lives of many an angst-ridden teenager is lead singer and songwriter Gordon Gano. Naive and childish one minute, bitterly frustrated and rebellious the next, Gano's vocals perfectly captured the contradictions of adolescence and the difficulties of making the transition to adulthood. Clever lyrical flourishes didn't hurt either; while "Blister In the Sun" has deservedly become a standard, "Kiss Off"'s chant-along "count-up" section, "Add It Up"'s escalating "Why can't I get just one..." couplets, and "Gimme the Car"'s profanity-obscuring guitar bends ensured that Gano's intensely vulnerable confessions of despair and maladjustment came off as catchy and humorous as well. Even if the songwriting slips a bit on occasion, Gano's personality keeps the music engaging and compelling without overindulging in his seemingly willful naiveté. For the remainder of their career, the group would only approach this level in isolated moments.

Customer Reviews

One of the best and most consistent albums of the last few decades

"When I'm a-walkin' i strut my stuff and I'm so strung out" lead singer Gordon Gano croons like an incredibly high stoner at the beginning of "Blister In the Sun", this band's justly deserved one and only hit. This verse is repeated at least three more times throughout the course of the song. How can a song with such a simple structure be so powerful? Part of it's due to the incredibly catchy riff and lyrics. Part of it is due to Gano's vocal style. Part of it is due to the song's dynamics, which starts out at a normal volume, then crawls down to a whisper, before exploding at the end. This is the basic Violent Femmes song formula: Start out with a nice and catchy riff, in the mid-section, become softer, darker, and more sinister, before letting it all out at the end, with a guitar/bass solo usually coming somewhere in between. Combine all this with catchy and angst-filled lyrics sung by Gordon Gano's voice and you have a great tune. "Blister In the Sun" is an excellent example of this, but several of the album's other songs, such as "Kiss Off", "Add It Up", and "Gone Daddy Gone", have a similarly brilliant strategy. These classics are combined with other great songs such as hard rocker "Prove My Love" and shimmering ballad "Good Feeling" to make a great record, one of the best to be relased by any band in the last several years in fact. The pure, raw angst on this album has been appreciated by generations of teenagers, and it has only ever been equalled by The Who's "Quadrophenia", released about a decade before. But even Pete Townshend's masterpiece doesn't have the same kind of raw, bitter, angstful emotion present on this record. Combine this with great lyrics, music, riffs, vocals, and the best bass guitar I've ever heard, and you have a classic album. In short, this is a pure masterpiece.

This Album Never Gets Old

I've been listening to this album since the mid 90's and it just doesn't get old. Every single song is worth listening to.

A classic

My title really says it all. This album is a true classic and should be in every "
cool kids" collection.


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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