March 7, 2016 Violent Femmes – We Can Do Anything
Ever since the opening riff of “Blister in the Sun” hit the airwaves back in 1983, the fame of Milwaukee, WI Punk Rock band Violent Femmes has continued to grow. They formed in 1980 with Guitarist/Songwriter Gordon Gano, Bassist Brian Ritchie, and Drummer Victor DeLorenzo, then released their debut, self-titled album just three years later, a platinum record that launched the band into super-stardom. After eight studio albums, the Violent Femmes have released their first full-length record of new material in sixteen years, titled We Can Do Anything, released March 4, 2016.
Despite Gano and Ritchie’s frequent disagreements and several disbandments, the band soldiers on, making music despite themselves. After several lineup changes, John Sparrow now sits permanently behind the kit after years of playing in the Femmes backing band, Horns of Dilemma, although Brian Viglione played drums for the actual album recording. Jubilant after the positive experiences recording last year’s EP, Happy New Year, Gano started slogging through decades of journals and demos, looking for older material that never saw the light of day but deserved some recognition.
Out of the Violent Femmes vault came “Memory,” “I Can Do Anything,” “I’m Not Done,” and “What You Really Mean” to add to We Can Do Anything. Recent songwriting sessions with past Katy Perry colleague Dave Katz and Better than Ezra’s Kevin Griffin produced some of the newer songs on the album, including “Foothills,” “Holy Ghost,” and “Issues.” The cartoonish cover art was drawn by Barenaked Ladies keyboardist Kevin Hearn, who also contributed on the album.
The album opens up with the lead single entitled “Memory” which is a jaunty number about drawing a blank that Gano apparently forgot existed until just recently. If Les Claypool were to ever write a children’s song, it would sound just like “I Could Be Anything.” Gano cranks out this revved up Polka about the sword-wielding, dragon-slaying hero, Bongo, in a fun and festive frenzy. A playful, plodding horn and Ritchie’s buzzing bass opens up the ungainly yet appropriate “Issues,” while things cruise along with deeper vocals and a raspy guitar in “Traveling Solves Everything.”
Guitar strumming along, Gano speed talks his way through “Holy Ghost,” a track with that great Violent Femmes acoustic sound that fans know and love. Unable to control themselves, the Femmes included two innuendo-laden songs on this album – “Foothills” is what a Buddy Holly song about masturbation would have sounded like, while “Big Car” starts off about penis size and ends with murder. Possibly the only real love sound ever to find its way onto a Femmes album, the ballad “What You Really Mean” was written by Gano’s sister, Cynthia, and after years of trying to find another artist to record the track, the good little brother finally laid it down on We Can Do Anything. The upbeat “Untrue Love” is a deeper, rattletrap track about the opposite of happily ever after. The album closes with the Country dust up “I’m Not Done,” an encouraging Bluegrass Polka that reminds listeners that, although they have done a lot over the years, the Femmes are not throwing in the towel yet.
We Can Do Anything is fun and eclectic, a mostly acoustic collection that combines the old school, single tone Punk of early Violent Femmes with a newer, fresher bit of Pop, and even a tinge of Country flair. The ’50s Rock guitar picking and Gano’s unique vocal stylings will send fans back thirty years to the first time they caught the Femmes on the radio. Check local listings, as the band is kicking off an Australian/New Zealand tour this month but will be hopping back over to the US with a show in Salt Lake City, Utah on May 2nd and keeping mostly to the West Coast, although they do make it to Camden, New Jersey for their last booked show (so far) on June 17th. “There’s lots of material, and we’re all happy with how this turned out creatively,” says Gano. Fans of the Violent Femmes will agree once they listen to We Can Do Anything – the timeless, concordant plainsongs hit the spot musically, giving listeners exactly what they were hoping for in a new album from their favorite acoustic Punk Rockers. CrypticRock gives We Can Do Anything 4 out of 5 stars.