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Sunday, May 8, 2011

11. Violent Femmes: Violent Femmes

The self-titled debut album from the Violent Femmes in 1983 was one of the most memorable albums created. Ten pop songs (in the original release...12 later) about yearning for love, sex, and affection...performed in such a way that makes them impossible to forget, or mistake for anything else. The simple sounds of the three musicians (guitar, bass, and snare drum...with brushes) delivered in their signature aggressive, driving manner, and the magically quotable lyrics by Gordon Gano (most of which were written while he was still in high school) made the band 80s gods on college campuses throughout the U.S.

The Violent Femmes released eight studio albums during their time, but the most well-known songs were hatched here...Who do you know that couldn't recognize the opening intro to "Blister In The Sun"?...or the count-up in "Kiss Off" ("I take one, one, one cause you left me...")? Other distinctly memorable moments include Gordon's whiny begging (but in a good way) in "Please Do Not Go" and the slow, child-like, a cappella introduction to "Add It Up" ("Daaaaay after daaaaay, I will waaaaalk and I will plaaaay..." This was the song that had college kids wondering why they can't "get just one kiss" (among other forms of affection) at the top of their lungs. How about the xylophone from "Gone Daddy Gone"...the darkly menacing length of "Confessions"..."Prove My Love" ("...third verse, same as the first!"), "Promise", "To The Kill", and the sadly-sweet "Good Feeling" to close the door on this gem. There's your ten...every one of them perfect songs in their simplest forms combining to produce an outcome greater than the sum of its parts.

This album is grossly accolades! No mention of the Violent Femmes on any music magazine's lists of the greatest whatever (probably "Best Bands from Milwaukee, Wisconsin" but I didn't really look). Well, I can say with confidence (and perhaps a bit of stubbornness) that they all missed the boat here. I can't understand how it was overlooked. The album has sold over 1,000,000 copies. It was another album that was near impossible to find in used record stores, meaning, if you bought it, you loved it, and you kept it. It was, in short, one of the great albums of the 80s.

The Violent Femmes were also tons of fun to see live. I saw them on six separate occasions (The last of which was in Portland. I went with my friend Ana, who eventually became Ana Matronic of the Scissor Sisters.). Every performance was excellent. But, alas, a huge rift regarding rights and royalties between Gano and bassist, Brian Ritchie has sealed the fate of the band, and the Violent Femmes are no more. Here, you have, not one, but three videos to enjoy! I could not choose between "Blister...", "Kiss Off", "and "Add It Up"...then remembered...Hey!  I'm the boss here. Who says it has to be only one? Happy Mothers' Day! Treat her right.

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