Posted by: markfender | July 9, 2013

Headphone Diaries – April 30, 1991

You can never have enough teenage desperation.


The Violent Femmes
Why Do Birds Sing?

Folk rock doesn’t seem like a thing that would make much of a mark on teenagers. And yet, the Violent Femmes have managed to make it happen. It was their self-titled debut album in 1983 that cemented their fame and still has their best songs on it (but then, that’s pretty typical. After all, you spend your entire life creating that first album. It’s the follow-ups that only take a couple years). Their follow-up albums have been significantly weaker, but have still managed to contain one or two classics. This album contained “American Music” which is one of their best songs so that’s good.

The Violent Femmes are composed of acoustic guitar, upright bass, and snare drum, which doesn’t sound like it would make for the sort of music I enjoy. And yet, there’s a percussive energy to most Violent Femmes songs that somehow transcend that. They’re high-energy with songs you can sing along with. And they’re some of most bare songs about the constant teenage conundrum – how do I get laid? With songs like “Add It Up” and “Gimme the Car,” Gordan Gano says the things that are lurking behind the greasy exterior and disaffected attitude of the typical American teenager, things that probably shouldn’t be spoken of in polite company.

I saw the Violent Femmes open for the Pixies and, while the Pixies were awesome, there’s only so much activity on stage to pay attention to. Francis Black is just standing behind the mic with his eyes closed and Kim Deal just lights cigarette after cigarette. But the Violent Femmes put on a show. It helps that the audience knows all the words and the songs are ready-made for crowd choruses.

Has it aged well? Gano’s whiny voice is fairly timeless.

Should this go on your iPod? It is the music of your teenage desperation. Of course it should.


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