Some bands can not escape themselves, and a song or album defines them before even they can wrap their head around it. Such was the case for the Violent Femmes and their debut album. It was, and remains, one of the greatest debut records to ever hit the streets, but it also set expectations for the band to fit into a mold they were not prepared to bake in. Even with further albums containing the same spirit thematically of the debut, the idea of musical experimentation at the heart of the band was lost on fans who merely wanted a sequel.
Regardless, Gordon Gano sang songs about how ridiculously awkward teenage life can be in a style that was acoustic punk, improvisational free-form jazz, and early rock ‘n’ roll all wrapped up together. It was geek anger displayed in a way that made it hip to be socially inept and people responded.
A few years ago I wrote a wish list of albums I “had to have” on vinyl, and the first Violent Femmes was on the top of the list. It wasn’t hard to find, but what has surprised me is the lack of reverence and variety that it has been given. From 1983 until 2001 the album was basically just re-issued “as is” in multiple formats. In 2002, it was given special treatment as a CD that included the basic album, B-Sides and demos, as well as a second CD of live material.
The following year, Rhino released a re-mastered 180 gram vinyl edition of the album as it first appeared… and… well, that’s it. There is a great sounding 2003 audiophile vinyl and nothing more. That said the sound quality of this edition is top notch, which is essential when you have rocks most amazing xylophone solo ever, and it is very inexpensive to pick up at your local retailer.
However, I’m still looking forward to a day when some double coloured vinyl with gatefold cover and bonus live material gets released; not that it will happen, but damn it would be nice.