Hard to believe these days that theViolent Femmes were once part of an august group of post-punk bands. Beyond marginal now, and fairly silly  from its second album on, the trio possess a debut that rests comfortably in an edgy pantheon with works as auspicious as Entertainment!, Los Angeles, and Unknown Pleasures. That record--put out after the Femmes were discovered haranguing passerby on a Milwaukee sreet corner by the Pretenders' James Honeyman-Scott--was definetly the quietest of this noisy list. But out of its rustling acousticism and stark arrangements came a perverse cri de coreur from one Gordon Gano; strained believer, concience-striken carnalist, and bereaved lover. The sexual and other dysfunctions described in songs like "Blister in the Sun" (compulsive masturbation?) and "Prove My Love" (compulsive cunnilingus?) remain unknown, as does the precise nature of the sickness he repeatedly referred to.  But it was a dreadful thing, the sound of a boy-man (Jonathan Richman, maybe, only with perversions) would down in a vortex of adolescent, sometimes infantile urges and the accompanying familial humiliations. Gano's ability to craft Velvety ballads ("Good Feeling"), nervous, popinfused nuggets ("Prove My Love"), and moments of nasty emotional apocalypse (the climax to "Add It Up")--along with the manic rumbling of Brian Ritchie's bass, Victor DeLorenzo's makeshift drumkitting and certain inspired overdubs, like the febrile vibes and springy guitar on "Gone Daddy Gone"--make the record an early document in the coalescing of a new wave of generational angst in the 1980s. Indeed; never hitting the Top 40, the album nevertheless has been passed down through mini-generation after mini-generation throughout the '80s and eventually went platinum.


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