Artist: "Violent Femmes"
Album: "Violent Femmes"
Genre: Alternative Rock
Label: Slash Records
Review: When I first heard this album, I was completely blown away by the directness and honesty of Gordon Gano's lyrics. He was singing about feelings that nearly everybody's had at one time or another, but that nobody seems comfortable really talking about. And here he was, singing (albeit badly) about his self-esteem problems, his troubles with girls, his shyness, loneliness--all letting me know that I wasn't alone in the world.
When I was in high school this music was a lifeline. And while I may have outgrown some of the problems that plagued me in my teenage years, I'll never forget them or how they felt, so the album still maintains a certain charm that'll never wear off because of that. On top of that, it's a collection of twelve (counting bonus tracks) insanely catchy, extremely frank songs that are incredibly infectious and fun--except for those bits where they're depressing you, of course.
When Gordon Gano, Brian Ritchie and Victor DeLorenzo were discovered playing outside of a Pretenders' concert in the early 1980s, it was probably one of the most fortuitous musical discoveries, well...ever. These three guys play with such earnestness and urgency that they come across as one of the most genuine bands I've ever heard play. There's no bullshit here at all. Going along with that theme, the production here is bare minimal--just three guys and their basic instruments, and you just know that seeing them live would sound exactly the same (actually it's even better), because there are no "tricks" here. These guys are just damned good entertainers--particularly Brian Ritchie the way he fucking owns that bass.
Of course, some people I know can't get past Gano's voice. He is, admittedly, not the best singer. But I would rather listen to his off-key whine any day of the week over whatever polished, freshly-minted American Idol shitheel is hot off the presses. Because I know that Gano's music is truly from the heart--not some corporate song catalog. And I'd rather hear the songwriter sing it with real passion than pass it off to some more qualified "singer" who doesn't really feel anything when he sings it.
Standout tracks include their most famous song "Blister in the Sun" (not their best work by any means, but sadly all most people know), the drugs and masturbation anthem which was ironically and hilariously used in a Wendy's commercial. "Kiss Off" with it's well known "counting" segment. The simplistic "oldies" feel of "Prove My Love" and xylophone-driven "Gone Daddy Gone". The melancholy "Good Feeling", in which Gano somehow makes happiness seem sad. And of course, the epic "Add It Up", my favorite Femmes song, which perfectly encapsulates sexual frustration.
Their often overlooked second album is actually just as good as their first (listen to "Country Death Song" if you don't believe me), but I decided to review this one because this is where the magic all began. If you haven't pulled out your Femmes albums in a while, take this opportunity to blow the dust off and kick yourself for letting them fall by the wayside. If you've never heard the Violent Femmes, you have no idea what you're missing, and I almost envy you for having them yet to discover. Almost. And if you're a teenager struggling through those awkward, hellish years--shit, what are you waiting for? This stuff is required listening.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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