168. never tell

“The Violent Femmes gave us more than their share of horny and cool party anthems on their debut album, but for me the deeper, darker Hallowed Ground is the serious keeper, if only for Never Tell. I recall hearing it’s about child abuse. But I can’t remember where I heard it, so all I’m really left with is the impression, and f*** if it’s not indelible – a sonic scar of rage, angst, pain, betrayal. Or as Jesus himself put it, don’t mess with the little ones. Not bad for a sort of indie-folk-punk party band.” (Philip Random)

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502. country death song

The Violent Femmes‘ debut album tends to get most of the hype, but the follow up Hallowed Ground is better. It goes deeper, rocks harder, bites more fiercely, covers more ground. And it kicks off with Country Death Song, a murder ballad that gets all the more harrowing when you realize that Gordon Gano was still in high school when he wrote it.  The opposite of a feel-good unless you just can’t enough of that those toe tapping backwoods American myths and legends and brutal truths.

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528. kiss off

If you were halfway cool in 1983, you were hip to the Violent Femmes first album. None of the commercial radio stations were playing it, but you’d long ago given up on them anyway — cesspools of bad sound, populated by liars. Unlike the Femmes who couldn’t not be fresh, horny, mad, honest – sometimes annoyingly so. But not with Kiss Off. Kiss Off hit it all just right, particularly the part where he counts them all down, his ten points of rage, frustration, spite, EVERYTHING. A punk that required no amplifiers, that could be delivered from a street corner, which is how the band got discovered in the first place.

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618. black girls

“The second Violent Femmes album is the one for me, the serious one. Songs of doom and murder and apocalypse and madness and, in the case of Black Girls, f***ing. Which pissed some people off at the time. They called it sexist and racist, but nah, it was just Gordon Gano telling the truth about some of the crazy sh** he got up to when he was young and horny. And man, did they rock it live! Normally just a three piece (and scaled down at that), the Femmes dragged out some horns and things went wild, delirious even. Horny indeed.” (Philip Random)

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858. no killing

“The first two Violent Femmes albums were so strong that The Blind Leading the Naked was always going to disappoint. Which doesn’t mean it didn’t give us a few cool nuggets, most notably No Killing, a charged number that felt infused with all the evil sh** we were hearing out of various lost zones in Central America (or perhaps Milwaukee) – CIA trained death squads on the roam, doing their worst so tinpot el prezidentes could maintain power, and the good ole Yankee dollar forever flourish. Same as it ever was.” (Philip Random)

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948. I hear the rain

As debut albums go, the Violent Femmes gave us one of the all time best – teen angst cranked to eleven, nothing held back. But their second album Hallowed Ground was probably even better; certainly bigger, darker, more dangerous. Yeah, they were still all horned up, but now there was also the very real problem of apocalypse, which in the mid 1980s was never further off than the edge of town. Or were those just rain clouds?

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