Review by Dakota Nelson
RIYL: The Replacements, Camper Van Beethoven, Pixies
Recommended tracks: Track 3- “Issues”, Track 6- “Foothills”, Track 8- “Big Car”
Violent Femmes is a folk-punk trio that debuted their self-titled album in 1983. Including songs like “Blister in the Sun”, “Add it Up” and “Gone Daddy Gone”, the album was a huge success. 33 years later, and 16 after its predecessor, they release their latest album We Can Do Anything. Channeling the fun, bouncy energy from their first album, Violent Femmes has released another fantastic album.
When a band has been around as long as Violent Femmes and they try to release a new album, it’s easy to criticize it. If they try to make an album that sounds like their early work, they are disregarded for not trying anything new. However, if they try to develop their sound, they are called “shells of their former selves” or something along those lines. So almost as to stop these comments, We Can Do Anything sounds like a mixture of old and new Violent Femmes.
There are many tracks on this album that could’ve easily been on earlier Violent Femmes work. Tracks like “Holy Ghost” and “Traveling Solves Everything” capture the feel of the 80’s folk punk that gave Violent Femmes its fame, while other tracks like “Memory” and “Foothills” are a breath of fresh air from the usual formula. While mixing old and new sounds, We Can Do Anything doesn’t sound like a schizophrenic mess but blends well.
Lasting only half an hour, We Can Do Anything is short but sweet. The album starts off with wonderful energy, as if Gano has been anxiously waiting to make more music. The first track “Memories” is about Violent Femmes in general and what happened afterward. Recalling the rise and somewhat fall of Gano’s career, he reflects on some things that might not have worked well for the band and, of course, past loves.
After a couple songs, the album starts to drift to a more somber approach. Halfway through, it has a slow song that is almost entirely Gano and an acoustic guitar. Then it starts to pick things up again with the next track, getting more and more energetic until the last song, “I’m Not Done”. Going back to the first track, Gano reflects on what he’s done but adds that he’s “not done yet,” declaring that even after years of no music, Violent Femmes will not be forgotten.
Gordon Gano’s voice is still as wavering and emotional as it was in his teenage years and Brian Ritchie’s acoustic bass is still as bouncy as ever. Unfortunately, the founding drummer, Victor DeLorenzo, was not present on this album, but that was expected. The drummer that replaced him, Brian Viglione, had no trouble replicating DeLorenzo’s sound, however. The percussion is still as tight as one would expect for the Violent Femmes.
At the end, there’s only one thing that is needed to be an official Violent Femmes album– does it make you cry? Being one of the most cathartic bands around, Violent Femmes releases their emotions in such an accessible and relatable way. When you’re feeling down, you can put on a Violent Femmes album and sit in the shower and dwell on things about life and love. In this regard, does this album deliver? Yes. Yes it does.