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100 Albums: "Violent Femmes" by Violent Femmes

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Violent Femmes
Title: Violent Femmes
Released: 1983
Genre: alternative acoustic teen angst


Violent Femmes' debut album was written by lead singer Gordon Gano while he was still in high school. The songs are goofy and sometimes childish, but they have a heart-on-sleeve earnestness that I find compelling. It didn't chart at all when it came out, but eventually went platinum in 1991 when several of its tracks found their way into radio rotation in the growing alternative movement. Gano's high, whiny voice and the stripped down arrangements--most of the songs are entirely played on acoustic guitar, acoustic bass, and a snare drum with brushes--give it a distinctive and instantly-recognizable aesthetic.

It has all of the Femmes' most popular songs, including the iconic Blister In The Sun. The intro to that song is one of the first four or five things a guitar player learns when picking up the instrument. Add It Up is probably the angstiest song on the record, with Gano shouting "Why can't I get just one screw?" at an unnamed paramour. Kiss Off (embedded) is probably my favorite, with its middle counting section: "I take one, one, one 'cause you left me and two, two, two for my family..." The goofiest song is Please Do Not Go, and at the same time it's the most heart-on-sleeve vulnerable. And of course, you have to love Gone Daddy Gone with its xylophone hook and lyrics... er... "borrowed" from Muddy Waters.

Further Listening: Violent Femmes are still around and even put out an album this year, but I haven't heard much of their other material. Gnarls Barkley did a fun cover of Gone Daddy Gone on St. Elsewhere.

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