April 30, 2018 Violent Femmes’ Debut Album Turns 35
When Violent Femmes invaded the Alternative music limelight in the early ’80s, no one seemed to know what to make out of the quirky music of the wacky trio behind the band. Their style resided in that sonic spectrum between Punk and Post-Punk with a little bit of Folk and Country, beside that of fellow eccentric groups like The Dead Milkmen (“Watching Scotty Die”), Toy Dolls (“Glenda and the Test Tube Baby”), Half Man Half Biscuit (“God Gave Us Life”), and The Young Fresh Fellows (“TV Dream”). Only after a couple of years and two albums more when imaginative musicologists had finally figured out what to call the music of this childlike pack—Snot Punk or Scruff Rock or Cowpunk, whatever that meant! On retrospect, these descriptions made sense—their music is punky and pesky but not as intimidating nor as confrontational as that of their Hardcore Punk siblings. It is more like a bratty little kid to his bossy big bro.
Formed in 1980, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States, by Brian Ritchie (bass, backing and lead vocals, guitars, shakuhachi, xylophone, keyboards), Victor DeLorenzo (drums, percussion, backing vocals), and Gordon Gano (lead vocals, guitars, violin, banjo), Violent Femmes became a pioneer and a prominent purveyor of the music genre assigned to them. To date, the band has nine studio albums under its name—from the first full-length to 2016’s We Can Do Anything. And of this collection of bizarreness and harmless mayhem, the debut remains the shining glory of Violent Femmes. Shine a light on it again, as it celebrates its 35th anniversary.
Released on Wednesday, April 13, 1983, through Slash Records, Violent Femmes’ self-titled album opened with the now Alternative anthem “Blister in the Sun,” which to this day remains a commercial favorite. Followed next was the sinister-sounding and self-loathing stomper “Kiss Off,” which had early on displayed one of what became Violent Femmes’ trademarks—Ritchie’s killer bass riffs. The trio then turned sweet and sentimental with the slow Folk Punk ballad “Please Do Not Go.” And then there was the album’s highlight – the rockin’ “Add It Up,” which was oozing with funk, groove, fuzz, angst, rolling bassline, and catchiness that effectively sugar coated its controversial lyrics.
Another slowing of pace came next with “Confessions,” whose Johnny Cash–inspired languor served as a template to many of their more Country-oriented songs in their future albums. “Prove My Love” returned the listener to the sunny, upbeat, and poppy predisposition of Violent Femmes; add to that, the uniqueness of Gano’s vocal styling was further cemented as the band’s first offering came near its end, only to start what eventually became a successful career and an influential reputation in the entire Alternative Rock scene. “Promise” followed in the same frenetic beat and rhythm, whereas “To the Kill” foreshadowed Violent Femmes’ penchant for cacophonous, jam-feel musicality.
The penultimate track – the dance-floor favorite, subtly Gothic “Gone Daddy Gone” also became one of Violent Femmes’ most distinctive and outstanding hit singles, owing much to its compelling intricate xylophone interludes. Finally, Violent Femmes concluded their first full-length with the much slower and pensive “Good Feeling,” leaving the listener heavy-hearted and craving for more.
Violent Femmes seems ageless, as it sounds as rustic and eccentric as when it was released 35 years ago. Listening to it will definitely make the initiated feel young and wild and impish once again! So, come on, what are you waiting for? Play the Femmes and feast on it under the sun. Feel the bliss and the beat and fly high as a kite and then strut all your stuff…go blister and all!