Album of the Month: Violent Femmes

Violent FemmesViolent Femmes
by Violent Femmes
Buy the album on Amazon

I was planning on a different Album of the Month, but then my friend new Kelsey and I were talking about our top 5 bands. I had mostly not heard of hers (because I’m old) and she had mostly not heard of mine (also because I’m old). Violent Femmes were on my list, and though my main thought was trying to hold back from screaming out on the subway “how do you not know who the Violent Femmes are?!”, my other thought was “if their first album is not a perfect album, then brother, I don’t know what the hell is.” So Kelsey, this is for you.

Where to begin? Plenty of much better writers than I am have talked about how popular and influential this album was on probably most every cool band in the 80s and 90s. I’ve got a lot of very specific memories related to this album and specific songs (though most the memories are tied to the full album – it really is best served whole). Off the top of my head:

  • In the summer between my freshman and sophomore year in high school, a bunch of the cool seniors I had become friends with in theater had graduated but invited me to audition for a community theater play they were in (“Story Theater”, directed by the one and only Q). It was a great summer of rehearsals and performing and new and old friendships and learning to kiss your first two fingers and tap the car celling when you barely make it through a yellow light and watching my friends get drunk (though not yet participating myself) and, maybe best of all, or at least the longest lasting effect, music. At minimum my friend Brenda introduced me to the Violent Femmes first album and TMBG’s Flood. I’m not sure if there was anything else, but goddamn, how incredibly iconic those two albums were and still are.
  • I took my sweet time getting my driver’s license (I think I finally got it when I was close to 18). I was perfectly happy to let others drive me around or to take the bus to school. My friend Joel and I were basically the old guys on the bus with all the freshman, so we owned the back seats and presumably thought we were all kinds of cool. The only actual cool person was our bus driver, who would often let us give her our cassettes to play over the stereo. Sometimes we’d be banned for a bit, most often when I would get her to play “Nothing’s Shocking” and “Sex is Violent” would come on and she would shut off and say “Chris! What is this?!”, but this was another of the regular albums in the rotation. I’m not sure how we got past “Add it Up” – maybe I would queue it to just after that. Anyway, I had taught my friend Joel the entire counting portion of “Kiss Off” on the bus before he had actually heard the song, so we could sing along together when it came on.
  • When I moved from Colorado to Savannah for my sophomore year of college, my sister and I drove out in her convertible, packed to the gills with all of my crap. We listened to a lot of music, and this was one of the albums I got her hooked on and that we would both be singing to cruising down the highway.
  • Lots of karaoke memories with individual songs (though I have a dream of some day singing it in its entirety).

I guess the overarching theme above is that this is a perfect car album. This deserves to be played loud, and sung along to on a summer day with the windows down, laughing with your friends or family. Bonus if you can work out who’s doing lead and who’s doing back-ups. I’ve always been secretly proud of myself because I think I can do a really good Gorden Gano voice when singing along (never confirmed by a second party, but I’ll still go with it).

I won’t say much about the songs below, because you either already own it and love it, or you’ve never heard the band, and you should just buy the album right now and school yourself. So many brilliant and iconic songs on here.

Track 1: “Blister in the Sun” – ♥♥♥♥♥

Just try and listen to this without tapping something and playing air guitar/bass/drums between the second and third verse.
In my youth, Flea and Les Claypool were always the coolest bassists, but I always thought Brian Ritchie should be added to the list as well. I saw the Femmes play once in Denver at the Gothic Theater, and he was incredible, not just on bass, but on about 20 other instruments as well.

Track 2: “Kiss Off” – ♥♥♥♥♥

Super fun to sing at karaoke, especially in a crowd that you don’t really like, because they don’t realize it’s them you’re telling to kiss off.

I taught my kid the counting part, though I can’t play her the whole song yet. Not ready to risk her singing “you can all just kiss off” at school

Track 3: “Please Do Not Go” – ♥♥♥♥♥

Story of my life. Such a sad, pathetic and totally fun song. That whole thing I said about being able to nail Gano’s voice? This song may be the perfect example (at least in my head). Fine, I can’t hit the “bye bye bye bye”s quite as well anymore.

Track 4: “Add It Up” – ♥♥♥♥♥

I wrote a bit about this, and then thankfully remembered I had already written a whole lot more.

Track 5: “Confessions” – ♥♥♥♥

The girlfriend who would make the ridiculous gun gestures during “Add it Up” would also make a ridiculous fist pump into the air gesture during the quick drum build-up “have we got an army” bits, and yes, I often do that now too.

Track 6: “Prove My Love” – ♥♥♥♥♥

I don’t always think of the stuff on the second half of this album when I’m thinking of the individual songs, but that’s exactly why this album should be listened to as a whole. This is just as much of a classic.

Track 7: “Promise” – ♥♥♥♥

This album really is a sum of all the parts – untethered vocals, killer music, and intelligent and totally relatable lyrics:

You know that I want your loving
But my logic tells me that it ain’t never gonna happen
And then my defenses say I didn’t want it anyway
But you know sometimes I’m a liar

Do you know what it’s like to hate when it’s way down deep inside?
Oh, God, I hate what’s been done to my life

Track 8: “To the Kill” – ♥♥♥♥

Another track I don’t really think about usually, but then I hear things like:

I ain’t no kid in Chicago, I ain’t no Al Capone
But there’s a windy city in my bedroom alone

and I get all kinds of smiley.

Track 9: “Gone Daddy Gone” – ♥♥♥♥

Probably my least favorite song on the original album, but that’s not saying much because I still love it.

Track 10: “Good Feeling” – ♥♥♥♥♥

I love that for all the raw, sad little man/teenage angst posturing of most of the rest of the album, they close the album (at least the original cassette) with this. The lyrics are still incredibly depressing, but man, is this song a beauty. Chills.

Good feeling
Won’t you stay with me just a little longer
It always seems like your leaving
When I need you here just a little longer
Oh, dear lady, there’s so many things
That I have come to fear
Little voice says I’m going crazy
To see all my worlds disappear
Vague sketch of a fantasy
Laughing at the sunrise
Like he’s been up all night
Ooh slippin’ and slidin’
What a good time but now
I have to find a bed
That can take this weight
Good feeling
Won’t you say stay with me just a little longer
It always seems like you’re leaving
When I know the other one, just a little too well
Oh, dear lady
Won’t you stay with me just a little longer
Y’know it always seems
Always seems like your leaving
When I need you here just a little longer

These last two tracks were included when the album was released on CD. I can mostly take or leave them, but they’re fun.

Track 12: “Gimme the Car” – ♥♥♥♥

Definitely not my favorite, but there are some random great bits in it.

About Chris

Chris is a digital producer based in Toronto, but don't worry, he's American. He enjoys karaoke and video games that are old enough to cost under $20. He used to be a master of the pit and live shows but can hardly keep up with anything new nowadays, so he usually goes to his happy place of media from his wayward youth. Chris is still trying to figure out what to be when he grows up.

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