Friday, February 26, 2016
Album Review :: Violent Femmes - We Can Do Anything
We Can Do Anything
March 4 2016 (PIAS)
Words: Richard O’Hagan
If you look closely, there’s a quirky little trend developing in music at the moment. It is one which is hard to summarise succinctly, but it pretty much amounts to ‘bands who never really split up but who don’t do anything for years and years, and then reappear with a rather good album’. The Chills did it in 2015 after 19 years away, and now Violent Femmes are back, a mere 15 years after their last album.
It is as if they have never been away. Which is another way of saying that, if you were expecting anything new and radically different from them, you’re going to be sadly disappointed. After all, Gordon Gano and Brian Ritchie remain steadfastly at the control of the Femmes, the music remains resolutely the same punky acoustic aesthetic that made such hits of ‘Blister In The Sun’ and ‘Gone Daddy Gone’ all those years ago, and the only change has been the addition of Brian Viglione on drums. You might remember him as the powerhouse behind Amanda Palmer in Dresden Dolls (whaddaya mean you weren’t looking anywhere but at Amanda Palmer?) and here he’s again playing the brilliant foil to (in this case) two charismatic frontmen.
Opener and the album's lead single ‘Memory’ is subliminally brilliant, the band reminding themselves of what the Femmes do, and at the same time reminding the listener as well. ‘Big Car’ juxtaposes the band’s signature spritely sound with some very dark lyrics. ‘I Could Be Anything’ features the first recorded appearance of the name ‘Bungo’ since the Wombles were in their prime. It is all a magnificent mish-mash.
At the heart lie two stunning tracks. ‘Holy Ghost’ is somehow both moody and atmospheric, and yet uplifting – as if the Femmes had decided to try their hands at a very acoustic version of Eighties Goth. And then there is ‘What You Really Mean’, distinguished by being written by Gano’s sister Cynthia Gayneau and as joyous and pithy as anything you will hear this year. Dear God, it’s good to have these guys back.