Violently Happy

Do you like American music? Check out the Violent Femmes.

For almost 25 years, the Milwaukee-bred trio the Violent Femmes has ridden the undercurrent of popular music and retained a rabid cult following, thanks to a cadre of memorable tunes, including "Blister in the Sun," "Kiss Off," and "Add It Up." Formed in 1980 by multi-instrumentalist Brian Ritchie, drummer Victor de Lorenzo, and singer/guitarist Gordon Gano, the Femmes gained instant notoriety after playing their first gig, causing a riot and getting Gano expelled from his high school honors society.

Their music is set to a raucous acoustic structure they cleverly coined "folk-you," and Gano's lyrics run the gamut from depressive to funny to self-deprecating. Called "the elder statesman of teen angst" by the New York Times, Gano, with his trademark whine, set a sympathetic tenet for pre-Generation-X youths. Sprung from an era rich in college rock when bands like Hüsker Dü and the Replacements reigned supreme, the Femmes reveled in '80s glory, thanks to those aforementioned hits, which have been both a crutch and a blessing for the group.

While many of the band's colleagues have splintered into solo territory or obscurity, the Violent Femmes saunter on, with ten albums now under their belts. New fans keep coming, including many who weren't even alive during the first album's release. The Femmes recently reissued the now-classic first album, which, despite the instantly familiar songs, also has the distinction of being the only album to go platinum without ever entering the Billboard 200. -- Kiran Aditham


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