Graham Reid | | 3 min read
Having witnessed the adoration New Zealanders were prepared to pour on the Violent Femmes, Elsewhere would frequently joke that they -- like Cheap Trick -- could turn up in Auckland tomorrow and fill the Town Hall with sweaty, party-ready fans from across at least two generations.
They made the kind of singalong, acoustic-rock music we liked . . . and we proved it by being the first country in the world to give them a gold record.
(As a footnote, we were also the first country in the world to give Joy Division a number one single -- for Love Will Tear Us Apart -- but that is another and rather more complex story about the Kiwi psyche).
Anyway, it seems the Violent Femmes -- after many off-on years (involving litigation) and with another drummer -- are back in the touring business.
And coming to Auckland on March 2 (see here).
If, however, the name is unfamiliar to you -- or you just knew a few lovable singles -- then let's ask where to start with these post-punk folk-busking rockers?
Why not indulge ourselves with a "how to buy" on the Violent Femmes . . .
Violent Femmes (1983)
The impressive debut of a trio – singer/guitarist/songwriter Gordon Gano, bassist/singer Brian Ritchie and drummer Victor DeLorenz – which had started life busking in Milwaukee.
Their amped up songs captured teenage and post-adolescent discomforts and delivered them in short, snappy pop songs. Includes Blister in the Sun, Add It Up, Prove My Love and Gone Daddy Gone.
A kind of greatest hits debut.
Hallowed Ground (1984)
The debut part two in many ways . . . because most of the songs were written before the first album.
But now with clout (and guests like avant-saxist John Zorn and Tony Trischka on banjo), the music stretched more – Never Tell is over seven minutes – and into more jazz and dark country.
And Gano's Christian faith.
A fine album which hardly sold (other than in New Zealand) and it includes Gano's harrowing murder ballad Country Death Song.
The Blind Leading the Naked (1986)
Produced by fan Jerry Harrison (Talking Heads) who had an ear for what might appeal at radio, this third album was their most successful in the States and although the band were at the point of splitting up.
(Which they did shortly after, to re-form without DeLorenzo later.)
But this is a strong outing.
It's notable for their cover of T. Rex's Children of the Revolution.
Viva Wisconsin (1999)
Because they were always a band that delivered their best when frenetically live (as in Auckland's Town Hall many memorable years ago), they captured that energy on this 70-plus minute collection.
It is pulled from shows in their homestate in '98 (with drummer Guy Hoffman replacing DeLorenzo).
All the “hits” and more, guest players on horns and piano . . . and with their teen angst and the political anger of the era all wrapped up in one thoroughly enjoyable and energetic album.
And also . . .
Multi-instrumentalist Brian Ritchie – who has lived in Hobart for almost a decade where he curates the excellent annual MoFo music festival for the astonishing Mona gallery – recorded a number of interesting, experimental albums for SST, notably Sonic Temple and Court of Babylon (1988) which defies most genres.
He mentions missionaries in New Zealand, not flatteringly, in Christian For One Day.
It and he are. . . ummm . . . different.