When Gordon Gano, Brian Ritchie, and Victor DeLorenzo released their eponymous debut album in 1983, they could not have predicted the album’s future status as an alternative classic. Thirty-three years of adoration, replication and imitation prove that the Violent Femmes have created one of the most influential albums in alternative music to date.
“We’ve always done what we wanted and how we wanted…” – Gordon Gano.
In the 1990’s…
In the early-mid nineties, the Femmes experienced a major upsurge in popularity, with the compilation album Add It Up (1981-1993) which was released after the departure of founding member Victor DeLorenzo in 1993.
The Femmes were so popular in the nineties that they joined an eclectic lineup for the 1996 Lollapalooza tour which included Metallica, and The Ramones. During the band’s visit to the now defunct Molson Park in Barrie, they performed to a restless crowd of angst-filled punks in the unbearable July heat. The vibe at Molson Park that day was a little different than it had been in 1994 and 1995 when Smashing Pumpkins and Hole headlined (respectively).
With a taste for fast guitars and the occasional growl, many members of the audience began throwing trash in protest as the Violent Femmes took to the stage.
Disarming detractors in the crowd, the band quickly earned respect by breaking into a few bars of a Ramones hit, after which Gano scowled and quipped that the crowd was just upset because ”…we’re not the Ramones…” before launching into an epic set that included many songs from the Femme’s classic debut album.
The First Album…
Violent Femmes is undoubtedly a must-own album for punk and alternative fans – almost a rite of passage for all teenagers.. The album is beautifully bipolar – moving between frenzied fast-paced tracks; Blister In The Sun, Add It Up, Gone Daddy Gone, Prove My Love and Promise and much slower songs; Kiss Off, Please Do Not Go and Good Feeling. Dionysian-dance-intoxication gives way to alt-rock Kumbaya – assemble a group of friends who know these songs and impromptu karaoke will ensue.
The Femmes Today…
In 2006 Gnarls Barkley covered Gone Daddy Gone (and in return the Femmes later covered Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy in 2008).. Recently, Blister In The Sun was featured in an episode of the Netflix original series Love and Add It Up appeared in an episode of the CW’s The 100 (the episode also featured a stripped down piano cover performed by Canadian pop musician Shawn Mendes) – proving that even growing up on a space station is no barrier to cultivating a love for the Femmes.
While the band has taken breaks in the past, they are back together today and have just released a new album this year entitled We Can Do Anything. The art of making an album that has significantly appreciated during the 33 years since its release, has been nicely summed up by Brian Ritchie on the band’s website:
“A lot of bands of our vintage return and then try to do what other people are doing nowadays. We were always outside of the times – even at our most popular we were considered outsiders – so we had no obligation to try to be current. Because we never were current. Ever.”
Being outside of “the times” is precisely the secret sauce that made the band’s first album so unique in 1983 – conversely, it is that same secret that has made that same album so relevant to new rock. Forever.