It’s been some time since I realised that I am getting out of touch with the guitar music that appeals to today’s youth. I can understand why the music in question appeals to those in their teens and early twenties, but it just doesn’t appeal to me, I’ve moved on, I’ve (for want of a more suitable word) matured. I’m not sad though, I’m not going to bust myself trying to keep up with the constantly changing tides of fashion. My time has been and gone and popular music is doing exactly what popular music should do and is alienating those that have got a few miles on the clock. This has been the case ever since rock n’ roll arrived in the mid 50s and I for one hope that it continues like this for the foreseeable future.
Eventually even music fans have to grow up and accept their social responsibilities and ultimately the music of youth no longer applies to them. Even albums that they loved in their youth start to lose their appeal, for example, as much as I enjoy the music of Supergrass, I find their debut I Should Coco a shade too immature for my tastes now. It’s still a great album, but I no longer relate to it in the manner that I would have done at sixteen.
Of course there are always exceptions and Violent Femmes is one of those albums. For all its themes of adolescent sexual frustration, it remains a truly great album to revisit your misspent youth with. Much of the album’s appeal is down to the rough and ready production, which means it has retained a consistent freshness that lasts to this day when so many albums released at the same time have badly dated. If you played “Blister In The Sun”, “Add It Up” or “Prove My Love” to a teenage rock fan, they’ll get exactly the same thing out of it as their parents would have done back in 1982. It’s simply one of those albums that does not date and as a result it appeals to the suppressed teenager that resides in most of us.
Sadly while many alternative rock acts have taken advantage of the path cleared by this trailblazing album, Violent Femmes themselves never got the breaks they deserved and eventually they fell into a routine of releasing albums that would lurk forever in the shadow of their ageless debut.
Quite why Violent Femmes never broke through in the UK is anyone’s guess, but I have the feeling that it’s because their rootsy organic sound featured here on their debut was totally at odds with the cellophane-wrapped pop that was holding sway in the UK charts. It was a great sound, but very few music fans in the UK were actually listening. In North America however it was a different story altogether and Violent Femmes was a massive underground success and ingrained itself into their popular culture so much that even now a song like “Good Feeling” is referenced in an episode of a mainstream comedy like How I Met Your Mother and over-zealous fans badly overreacted to Gnarls Barkley’s covering “Gone Daddy Gone”.
Violent Femmes is one of those one off albums. This is highlighted by the fact that Violent Femmes have never come close to releasing anything which comes even close to their debut. The previous three decades has found this album confirming itself as a unique achievement not only in the band’s career, but in the grand scheme of American rock music.