Album Review: Violent Femmes – Self-Titled (Re-Release)

4.5/5

Forty years ago, the Violent Femmes did the seemingly impossible and created a generational masterpiece mixing—at the time—two seemingly incongruous music genres, folk and punk. The Pogues, coincidentally, would be fusing together similar genres around the same time halfway across the globe. But this trio from Wisconsin (not exactly a hotbed for the early punk rock movement) were cobbling together a classic album with their debut combining iconic, confessional songs played over acoustic guitars and delivered with Gordon Gano’s distinctively quirky vocals.

Some bands spend their entire careers trying to come up with a song that will be career defining; The Violent Femmes had nearly a dozen and they were all on this 1983 debut. To honor the album’s 40th anniversary, Craft Recordings just put out a special reissue of the self-titled record with remastered audio and over a dozen demos, B-Sides, and a dozen live tracks. The original record is crammed with classics like “Blister In The Sun,” “Kiss Off,” “Add It Up,” “Gone Dady Gone,” “Please Do Not Go,” but these added b-sides—mostly stellar additions to the band’s already impressive cannon—just go to show how incredibly consistent the band was in the early-to-mid 80s. The live tracks were recorded at shows in their native Milwaukee and New York and give an even grittier feel to these songs.

The original album was recorded dirt cheap with producer Mark Van Hecke and as a result consists mostly of first takes giving a raw appeal to the music that made it sound especially genuine in a decade awash with sterile overproduction and overdubs. “We were using tape, which was expensive, and paying for this record ourselves,” says Brian Ritchie, the bassist and backing vocalist. “We might have a few false starts. We’d get a take, then say, ‘That sounds pretty good, let’s try a few more.’”

The album is just as relevant in 2023 as it was when it first came out four decades ago. Songs like “Blister In the Sun” and “Kiss Off” are still brilliant anthems for outsiders. The re-release comes as a deluxe 2-CD and as digital formats There is also a special 4-disc vinyl box set that comes out on February 9th, limited to just 5,000 copies.

Purchase this album.

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