Monday, September 20, 2010

The Violent Femmes - S/T and Add It Up

Release Dates: 11/13/82 & 09/14/93

★★★★★ Tracks:

Blister in the Sun

Kiss Off

Please Do Not Go

Gone Daddy Gone

Mike was one of those kids in middle school who did things a little differently. He had those white and black checkered Vans. He always wore that yellow Charlie Brown shirt with the black stripe. He shopped at the thrift store for plaid trousers and bright colored suspenders. He watched Kids in the Hall and Mr. Bean, and rented movies like Dead Alive and CB4. There wasn't a sport he cared for, instead he spent time practicing and playing his father's guitars and banjos. All of this intrigued me about my new best friend. Weirded me out a bit as well. But regardless of how strange I thought he was, I really looked up to my new buddy when I began to dig through his music collection. I had just gotten in to Nirvana and Helmet via a couple of great MTV videos and thought I was ahead of the curve. Mike proved to me I wasn't. Sure, he liked the Nirvanas and Helmets of the world that, in ‘92-93, were beginning to circulate heavily, but he also dug much deeper: Dead Kennedys, Butthole Surfers, Sonic Youth, Afghan Whigs, Dinosaur Jr., about 40 other bands I could name drop here. How did he ever hear of all this stuff? Where did it come from? And where could I find the latest & greatest before he did? -- a fruitless battle I would soon realize, but Mike got me hooked to the underground rock scene of the early ‘90’s.

Add It Up by the Violent Femmes was one of the other albums he had, and after hearing it a few times I made sure to ask my mom for a ride to the mall so I could grab a copy. As your typical suburban punk-ass teenager, not only was I looking for good music, I wanted the shit that would make my folks cringe. Lucky for me there weren't many more cringe-worthy lyrics for a parent than, “Why can’t I get just one fuck?” Similarly horrifying was the masturbatory “Blister in the Sun,” and the hilarious pleadings to dad in “Gimme the Car;” a song where Gordon Gano explains he is going to pick a girl up and "touch her all over her body." While all of this might sound incredibly juvenile (it is), the Femmes wrote some very innovative, fast rock'n'roll teetering on punk rock. They used acoustic instruments for the most part, a novelty for the genre (they very well could have inspired the term "folk punk"), and gave an uncensored voice to countless adolescent males of early 80's suburbia who had a hard time getting laid.

(epic mullet!)

I picked up a copy of Violent Femmes much later, and was rewarded with a killer record. The compilation really isn’t necessary when you have this one; in fact “Please Do Not Go” and “Prove My Love” are stand-out tracks that Add It Up completely left off. The strongest Femmes track ever recorded is here: “Kiss Off” is a perfectly crafted punk-rock anthem executed with nothing more than a small drum kit and an acoustic guitar and bass. Other stand outs include “Add It Up,” which would be re-popularized for my generation by "Hey, That's My Bike," Ethan Hawke’s fictional band in the movie, Reality Bites. And twelve years later we were reminded of the them all over again when Gnarls Barkley did an excellent cover of the classic "Gone Daddy Gone." By now it's obvious the Violent Femmes have left a permanent mark on rock'n'roll.

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