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Hallowed Ground

Violent Femmes Albums Ranked Worst To Best

by Pete Crigler

I’ve been a fan of the Violent Femmes since I was about 14, when I discovered Hallowed Ground on cassette from my local library. Everyone knows they are one of the most significant and important bands of the entire ’80s alternative wave. Songs like “Add It Up,” “Please Do Not Go” and the immortal “Blister In The Sun” helped many a teenager get through their awkward pubescent years. After a very long recording hiatus, the band is preparing to release a brand new full-length record in 2016. Until then, let’s take a look at the catalogue of a band that have already cemented their name in alternative rock history.

violentfemmes_freak_1508. Freak Magnet (2000)

The most boring of all their records. Originally due to be released by Interscope Records in 1998, the band got dropped, the tracklisting got shuffled, and it eventually was released by Beyond Music in the spring of 2000. Until 2016, this was their last full-length studio album. Among the dozen or so tracks here, only “Forbidden” and “All I Want” are the only ones to show any real life left. The band just plows through the songs with no real emotion or feeling, and you can sense it all over the disc.

7. The Blind Leading the Naked (1986)violentfemmes_blind_150

This was during a time when the band got more experimental, adding in keyboards galore, horns and all sorts of different sounds not heard on the previous two records. Unfortunately, the record is just kind of flat and boring, asides from the cover of T. Rex’s “Children Of The Revolution,” which got them on MTV for the first time. The best song however, was a bonus track that was only available on the cassette version: “World Without Mercy,” written by drummer Victor DeLorenzo, is such a great and unexpected track it’s a damn shame you could only buy the cassette to get it. An underwritten record that is a statement of its time.

violentfemmes_newtimes_1506. New Times (1994)

Their first record with new drummer Guy Hoffman and their first (and last) album for Elektra Records. Trying to ride the wave of ‘80s nostalgia, the band recorded a decent amount of material for the record but twenty-one years later, it just doesn’t hold up. The one track that stands above the rest as one of their best latter-day songs is “When Everybody’s Happy,” which has the appeal of something from the very first record. A decent album, one that holds up better than the rest, but it could’ve used a lot of improvement.

5. Why Do Birds Sing (1991)violentfemmes_birds_150

The album best known for “American Music,” one of their best latter day songs, but this is where all signs of creativity started going out the window. Some songs were written in the burst of creative frenzy that gave us the first two records. It was around this time that Gordon Gano started adapting whatever type of verse he could from other poets and putting it to music – witness “Hey Nonny Nonny.” While there are some decent tracks, such as “Use To Be,” this is where the ship starts to leave the pier without anyone on board. Still good, but starting to slide off the rails.

violentfemmes_3_1504. 3 (1989)

The first record after their three-year hiatus found Gano and Co. writing shorter songs and trying to keep up with alternative rock radio. The band’s first major hit on alt rock stations was “Nightmares,” and while it doesn’t hold up well, it’s great for nostalgia. “Lies” and “Fat” have both become fan favorites, but they’re less than two minutes apiece. If they were stretched a bit longer, they might have become official classics. While this is a good record, it’s not quite as good as it could be.

3. Viva Wisconsin (1999)violentfemmes_viva

Released to tide fans over while waiting for a studio album, this first official live record is quite a revelation. The band truly comes to life here, with tons of great songs performed before a rapturous audience. “Don’t Talk About My Music (Shut Your Mouth)” is where bassist Brian Ritchie takes control and refuses to let go. Nevertheless, this disc can often be found in cutout and dollar bins all across this great country

violentfemmes_st_1502. Violent Femmes (1982)

I know, I know. “How the hell does this rank #2?!” you might ask. Well, the easy answer is that I discovered the second record first and just enjoy the hell out of every damn song. True, just about every song on the legendary self-titled debut is great, too, but you hear these songs played everywhere. While the songs are notable and great, they just don’t seem to have the same type of power that the sophomore album’s tracks did. Still, this self-titled album remains one of the greatest New Wave/alternative albums of the ’80s.

1. Hallowed Ground (1984)violentfemmes_hallowed_150

This was the first album by the band that I really got into, and there’s a good reason! I was in high school undergoing my own awkward phase when I found “Country Death Song,” “Never Tell” and “Jesus Walking On The Water,” among others, and these were the songs that really spoke to me. These were some of the first religious rock songs that I heard that I felt really belonged to me and they didn’t feel overly preachy or that they were shoving religion down your throat. These songs still stand the test of time for me; I own the album on vinyl, CD and cassette for God’s sake! Some people will probably say the first album is the best, but for me, the sophomore album is the place to start!




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