Back in the early '80s, just as my infatuation with Talking Heads, Television, Eno, and even Patti Smith were waning, the Violent Femmes came along and renewed my faith in music. The Femmes' stripped down, mostly unplugged rock and roll sounded like a new version of the real thing. Sure, it was easy to tell that vocalist/guitarist Gordon Gano had clearly listened to a lot of Velvet Underground records, but his delivery wasn't by any stretch Reed-ian deadpan, no he teetered between nasalily innocent Jonathan Richman and a full David Byrne yelp. The Femmes had stood at some Milwaukee crossroad and somehow morphed jazz, blues, rock, country, and gospel into their very own emotionally naked white boy music.
"Blister in the Sun" kicks off the record in fine fashion with Brian Ritchie's acoustic bass guitar thrashings and Victor DeLorenzo's kinetic minimalist drumkit punctuating Gano's sputtering vocals. Keen-eyed readers may have noticed the Femmes are in fact an all-male trio, but lets just say the band's unadulterated teenage angst mindset and wry humor are reflected in their name. Gano's urgent pleas about heartache, headaches, sorrows, love & death and, EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING established his trajectory for the group's first few, and best albums. OK, his fractured electric fretwork on "To the Kill" would surely send Clapton out of the room screaming, or weeping, but hell, Gano was 18 years old when they laid down these tracks in July of '82. The band didn't have a record deal, so they paid for those first sessions tachine to qualify for a lower than standard hourly rate. The Femmes' unique sound, captured sans studio trickery, only adds to the vitality of the music -- it wouldn't have clicked if they smoothed over the many rough spots. My favorite track has always been "Gone Daddy Gone" if only for Ritchie's bizarro xylophone solo.
Rhino fleshed out the original LP's 10 tunes to 36 tracks spread out over two discs to include never before released demos and live tracks. OK, none of the extras are essential or radically break with the studio versions, but I wouldn't want to be without them.
Sound Quality: 80