2 Mics And The Truth

Violent Femmes

PIAS, Inc., 2017


REVIEW BY: Pete Crigler


The last time the Violent Femmes released a live album (1999’s Viva Wisconsin), it was roundly trashed on this here site. Nevertheless, I was particularly fond of that record growing up as it had the typical Femmes setlist and contained a lot of gems. Cut to eighteen years later: the reconfigured group was doing radio interviews for their latest release We Can Do Anything and worked acoustic performances into the mix. But as it turns out, recording tracks with microphones designed for bluegrass bands and having a “drummer” who plays brushes on a grill isn’t really the best idea. The quality of the recordings here is pretty damn crappy. It sounds like everything was recorded in a small garage with some bad mixing.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Spicing up the setlist with old goodies like “It’s Gonna Rain,” “Breakin’ Up,” and “Jesus Walking On The Water” was a smart idea, but there are already better takes of “I’m Nothing” and “Blister In The Sun” on Viva Wisconsin. The band utilizes a horn section, but on “It’s Gonna Rain,” they sound absolutely terrible. “Breakin’ Up” sounds a bit better, but there could’ve been better ways to record this material.

“Memory” is one of the band’s more memorable tracks since the ‘90s and it’s one of the few songs here that don’t sound like utter garbage. The use of the grill as the percussion really brings up problems with this mix. There’s only so much one can do with it that the percussion ends up getting lost in the mix, particularly on songs like “American Music” where it almost feels like a guitar and bass duo. It’s a shame, because a track like that really calls for some heavy percussion. “Rejoice And Be Happy” sounds like a folk hootenanny and it’s kind of weird to see a great band like the Femmes doing these weak and subpar tracks from their later years.

“Add It Up” still sounds great all these years later and nothing can take away the power of this track. For a music geek like me, it’s a great thrill that legendary banjoist Tony Trischka, who originally played the part on “Country Death Song,” returns to recreate his part here. That ends up being one of the few highlights from a band whose glory days are long, long gone and is better off just sticking to the oldies.

Rating: C-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2017 Pete Crigler and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of PIAS, Inc., and is used for informational purposes only.