Prior to seventh grade, like many kids my age, the vast majority of my musical tastes came directly from pop radio. Smack dab in the middle of 1980s, my American idols were Huey Lewis, Duran Duran, Michael Jackson and Madonna. When I reached seventh grade, my elementary classmates and I were lumped in with half a dozen other schools, forming one giant middle school melting pot. Suddenly, I was introduced to several new cliques including stoners, punks, and a group I tried to fit in with for a while, the skaters.
Louis wasn’t much of a skater, but then again, neither was I. The two of us met in science class, and quickly discovered that we both liked skateboarding. Louis lived in the trailer park a mile or so down the road from my neighborhood, so after school the two of us often got together and practiced our wobbily skate maneuvers on the sloped curbs just outside his home. Louis knew a couple of other skaters, two girls, who lived just down the street from him. Gail and Red would occasionally come down and watch Louis and I practice. Sometimes Gail would bring her boom box so that we would have music to skate to. Usually, she played the Violent Femmes.
Combining equal parts of folk and punk rock, the Violent Femmes self-titled album debuted quietly on the music scene in 1982. Despite being credited as the first “folk punk” album and essentially setting the groundwork for the ’80s wave of “alternative rock” which began a few years later, it took over ten years for the Femmes’ debut album to go platinum.
Violent Femmes (the album) explodes out of the gate with “Blister in the Sun,” one of the strongest and catchiest tunes on the disc (which, incidently, is currently being used to hawk Wendy’s Hamburgers). Throughout Blister’s two and a half minute running time, the album’s parameters are set: first-person lyrics set to aggressive acoustic guitars, creating powerful poppy/punky song structures with singable choruses.
Song subjects will seem familiar to anyone who spent a day in high school. The Femmes cover the highs and lows of love and life in great detail, with attitudes changing as quickly as those of teenagers themselves. From the defiance in “Kiss Off” to the depression of “Confessions,” the self-loathing of “Ugly” and the elation of “Good Feeling,” the entire spectrum of teens and the emotional conflicts they experience are expressed.
The longevity of the album can no doubt be attributed to the timelessness of the subjects it encompasses. Who hasn’t told a girl they can kiss off, only to later beg them to please, please not go. Feeling loved, feeling alienated, feeling accepted, feeling dejected … everything all of us experienced is here. In twenty-five years the Femmes have released eight studio albums. Their first was their best.
01. Blister in the Sun
02. Kiss Off
03. Please Do Not Go
04. Add It Up
06. Prove My Love
08. To the Kill
09. Gone Daddy Gone
10. Good Feeling
11. Ugly (CD Bonus Track)
12. Gimme the Car (CD Bonus Track)