It’s the time of year for saving money!
I remember trying to explain to a friend in college why he needed to listen to a band called The Violent Femmes.
“They’re fun,” I said.
My friend, who had not fully embraced punk and new wave by that point gave me that dubious questioning look to which I replied something like: ‘Really… they are like a punk folk rock trio.’
Then I played him a track from their first album and I think my friend was immediately into it.
At that moment, it would have been handy if I could have given him a “greatest hits” album but in 1983 those hits hadn’t really happened yet. There was just that first album. But what a debut it is with instant classics like “Kiss Off,” “Blister In The Sun” and “Gone Daddy Gone.” But there was much more to come…
Fast forward five albums and twice as many years later and the band issued a nifty compilation called Add It Up (1981-1993). I thought this was only on CD by then. Apparently, it did get a vinyl release somewhere (I only see copies from Greece on Discogs!) but it must have been pretty limited as I never saw a copy anywhere. Now, celebrating the band’s 40th Anniversary, this indeed handy hits-and-more album has been issued in vinyl and I couldn’t be happier.
As an end-to-end listening experience, Add It Up (1981-1993)is remarkably coherent given it was made from a variety of sources including demos, spoken word “interstitials,” phone messages, live recordings and outtakes as well as fan favorites.
The vinyl is dark, thick and well centered so all those check marks tick off just fine. Craft Recordings did a nice job on the packaging as well. Perhaps my only complaint is that the inner-sleeves seem a bit tight on the records and sounded a little grainy pulling them out, so I worried about possible scratching (easily resolved by putting each disc in their own new sleeves, but be aware of this if you decide to get the album).
At the end of the day comes the music and here the watch word is, indeed, fun!
If you like The Violent Femmes, you should definitely get Add It Up (1981-1993). If you are just getting into the band, this is actually not a bad place to expand your horizons after getting the first album. One of the best debuts ever, it remains an essential of ‘80s rock. This music holds up and feels timeless, relevant and delivering an alternative life viewpoint that is important to at least understand if not embrace. I get all that from a three minute pop song? You bet!
I was more a deadhead than anything else when I arrived at college in the early/mid ’80s (and still love the Dead), but first hearing the Femmes’ first album was revelatory- simply amazing. The punk/folk/indie style, with its spare, biting arrangements, and wisecracking alienation, alternating with impassioned lyrics and singing, grabbed me and my friends. Caught a couple of their live performances back then, and they were just great- offbeat, full of energy, with just enough improvisation to make me want to see them again. By the time they’d gotten to ‘3’ and later on, ‘New Times,’ Gano’s lyrics had gotten that much more creative, biting, sly, and often frankly hilarious, even brilliant- go listen to that album’s eponymous opener and check out the lyrics to get a sense of it. Over time, the band really developed a range as well, with many more wonderful arrangements.
The Femmes were really of their founding era (that early 80s sound) but kept growing as well. Truly a great and important American band.