Sober Violence

Having just surfaced from a long weekend of admittedly sober birthday celebrations, I’ve decided to indulge myself with a personal favourite, and as it happens one such record showed up in the post yesterday.

An album I never got round to picking up (til now) because at one time I could barely escape it, Violent Femmes’ eponymous debut from ’83 heralded them as the kings of acoustic punk; an anomalous accolade which arguably no one has ever dared claim from them.

Even if you’re not familiar with the Femmes oeuvre, you’ve probably at some point clapped along to album opener Blister In The Sun which sets the tone for the following 7 tracks of frenetic folk, and a couple of slow numbers.  Tucked snugly in this barrage of brushed snares and scrubbed guitars lies a slice of skanking punk-reggae perfection in the ballad Please Do Not Go which in lesser hands could be a cliched tale of unrequited love but Gordon Gano’s desperate shrill renders it painful, yet somehow playful.

It’s often the case that these tracks seem a little incongruous with the rest of an artist’s output but in the case of Violent Femmes, it couldn’t have felt more fitting. Their tight vocal harmonies already hark back to the same doo wop and harmony groups which influenced the 1st Jamiacan R&B and later ska and rocksteady bands, and their troubadour traits matched the immediacy of many mento and calypso artists; happy to shack up and play anywhere, the band actually got their break whilst busking outside a Pretenders gig in their Milwaukee hometown.

I could go on but there’s work to be done, so instead check out the studio version below and then feast your eyes on the short Femmes documentary which features Please Do Not Go perfectly busked on the streets of New York. Til next time I bid you goodbye (bye bye bye-bye-bye-bye).

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