Nite Life Midnight Album Feature – The Violent Femmes

Every Friday night at 12 it’s the “Midnight Album Feature,” where I bring you a favorite album from my personal collection. Tonight it’s the Violent Femmes and their self-titled debut. Recorded in 1982 and released in 1983, this one-of-a-kind album went platinum 10 years after it was released. It’s the only album to ever go platinum without making the Billboard Top 200.

vfemmes_sm.jpgThe Violent Femmes are from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The trio is Brian Ritchie, Victor Delorenzo and Gordan Gano. Ritchie and Delorenzo started the band in 1980, teamed up with Gano the following year and then signed onto Slash Records and released this album in 1983.

This is one of the first alternative records I ever heard. I heard it in my hometown in Pennsylvania, with some girls who took my friend and I for a ride. I didn’t know them. They were snapping their gum really loud over and over again and they were listening to this incredible music I had never heard before. I’d honestly never heard any music like it. Even though these girls considered themselves way too cool to talk to me, I swallowed my pride to ask “WHAT IS THIS?” I had to know.

It’s a stunning record. There’s nothing like it: The acoustic warmth is set off with a lyrical, vocal punk feel. It’s very emotional. There are these harder-hitting, gritty songs that are the hits, like “Blister in the Sun,” “Add It Up,” and “Gone Daddy Gone.” They all have this go-go infusion to them, a great dance rhythm. Then there are the obscure, slower songs which I love even more. Two of my favorites is “Please Do Not Go” and “Kiss Off.”

I heard this album when I was transferring colleges. I had left art school because I got accepted into UC Berkeley. This would have been great, but I owed the art college a bunch of money. I was 19, so this seemed like the end of the world. so I was stuck in my hometown. I ended up working in this crappy waitressing job. It was one of those times that was so hard. I got myself up for work every day, joking with myself, saying “I am a robot”. Going through the motions until I could move to Berkeley to get back to school. This Violent Femmes album became my co-conspirator. It gave me the feeling that, yes, everything sucked, but hell I was going to make it through this. And I was gonna make it through with style and sass.

This band just stopped me in my tracks. And I’m not alone. The Violent Femmes were playing in basements, in coffee houses, and on the street corners of Milwaukee when they were discovered by someone just walking by — Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders heard them playing on the street just before a Pretenders gig and she invited them to play a brief set before the show. They are still touring, they are still a huge cult band. There’s no one like them, there’s no one who mixes these incredible acoustic guitar leads with the punky vocals and the emotional singing style. I definitely recommend it all the way through, check it out.

Friday, June 22, 2007 (LISTEN TO THIS FEATURE) Be sure to catch Nite Life with DJ Michele Myers every Friday 9 pm – 1 am. This coming week’s focus is on RJD2‘s smoky, lush record Deadringer. Influenced by Jimi Hendrix and DJ Shadow, this Columbus, Ohio DJ mixes soul, rock and electronics.

The Midnight Album Feature is produced by Janet Cavallo and Michele Myers.

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