July 22, 2019 Violent Femmes – Hotel Last Resort (Album Review)
Still the holders of the saddle and lasso of what is known now as Folk Punk, Violent Femmes have never lost their unique sonic quirkiness and amiable lyrical brattiness over the years. Formed in 1980, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States, the on-and-off Violent Femmes have nine studio albums to the band’s credit—from 1983’s successful debut full-length, which contained their massive hits “Blister in the Sun” and “Gone Daddy Gone;” to 2016’s comeback album, We Can Do Anything (considering the one previous to this was 2000’s Freak Magnet).
Currently comprised by original members Gordon Gano (lead vocals, guitars, violin, banjo) and Brian Ritchie (bass, backing and lead vocals, guitars, shakuhachi, xylophone, keyboards) alongside new drummer, John Sparrow, Violent Femmes are set to return with their latest work, Hotel Last Resort, on Friday, July 26th, 2019 via [PIAS].
Their 10th studio album, it opens with the singalong catchiness and funky, angular groove of “Another Chorus,” whose horn section courtesy of the band’s mainstays Horns of Dilemma plus Gano’s characteristic vocal styling affirm Violent Femmes’ trademark sound. This is followed by “I Get What I Want” – another upbeat track that harks to the melodramatic yet carefree predisposition of “Prove My Love” and the rest of the band’s first album. Next is a reworking of “I’m Nothing,” the original version of which comes from Violent Femmes’ 1994 record, New Times; this new rendition features additional vocals by the professional skateboarder Stefan Janoski, a longtime fan of the band.
“Adam Was a Man” is another fun song, which will fit seamlessly onto a playlist that includes “All I Want for Christmas Is a Dukla Prague Away Kit” by Half Man Half Biscuit and “How It’s Gonna Be” by The Dead Milkmen. Then there is “Not Ok” – another typical Violent Femmes song with that distinctive driving rhythm, punchy beat, and sharp bass line.
The title track which is also the carrier single boasts of Television’s Tom Verlaine on backing vocals and bumble-buzzing lead guitar. Gano turns strangely romantic again with “Everlasting You,” exuding faint echoes of the band’s classic love song “Please Do Not Go.” The ensuing “It’s All or Nothing” returns the listener to engaging sunny land. There is then the Dimotiki-inspired “I’m Not Gonna Cry”—an original by the Greek band Pyx Lax—is the first of Hotel Last Resort’s two covers. Following next is another fun old-school Punk Rock song—“This Free Ride”—which carries the same genes as The Dead Milkmen’s “Punk Rock Girl” and The Ramones’ “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker.”
Violent Femmes then go slow and acoustic with the reflective, sorrowful song “Paris to Sleep.” The penultimate track, “Sleepin’ at the Meetin’” is a tongue twister that comes across as an almost bare-naked, a Capella account of the sweetly irreverent “Kiss Off.” Finally, Gano, Ritchie, and Sparrow close Hotel Last Resort with an aptly quiet and languid interpretation of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America,” but which builds up into a seeming cacophony that will remind the initiated of the mighty “Add It Up.”
All the ingredients that make up a great Violent Femmes album are all present in the long-running band’s latest oeuvre. Hotel Last Resort is what may be described as a back to old form. Longtime enthusiasts will surely be delighted because of the album’s nostalgic elements, whereas young and new fans of anything punky and eccentric will surely be smitten, enough for them to scratch an itch to revisit Violent Femmes’ eclectic discography that has explored Folk, Country, Punk, and New Wave in the band’s own terms. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Hotel Last Resort 4 out of 5 stars.