Photo from musicfeeds.com
By David Sheridan
It’s been 16 years since the Violent Femmes last released an album, but with “We Can Do Anything” the Milwaukee punk band is back. While it may not be their strongest album, nothing really falls flat from start to finish.
“We Can Do Anything” has all the staple components of a Violent Femmes album. There’s a song about girl problems, a love song, a self love song, a song that hints at killing someone and, of course, there’s a song about God. That last one might throw new listeners off, but yes, “Holy Ghost” is what you think it is. Religious songs have been a part of Violent Femmes since their second album, “Hallowed Ground”, had “Jesus Walking on the Water”.
But “We Can Do Anything” isn’t just a cut and paste of their previous albums where nothing has changed for 16 years. The second track on the album, “I Could Be Anything”, is an upbeat tale about how a lowly peasant works his way up from nothing to a knight to the king of his land all in one day. The plot to the song is very bare boned, but if you’re looking for deep plot in a song like this you’re thinking too hard.
Many would argue that the Violent Femmes might have peaked too early. The song that they are most known for is “Blister in the Sun”. That was the first song on their self-titled debut album. If you follow sports and have ever been to a live game, you’ve probably heard it since the opening beat almost demands audience participation. It’s so popular that Stephen Colbert had them play it as an internet exclusive video for The Late Show.
While their first album may be their best, it’s also where they found what works for them. Their musical style has never really changed. The instrumental aspect of the band sounds the same for the most part and the singing voice of Gordon Gano is still kind of whiny, but in a way that works for the band.
This is why songs like “I Could Be Anything” are so refreshing. A change of pace for Violent Femmes leads to a great song, possibly the best on the album.
The music itself is strong in the beginning of the album, but feels almost lazily put together by the end. While “I’m Not Done” is a good song, certain parts sound like the band hastily inserted the beat to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” because they needed to add something to the song.
Fans are lucky to see this album released. There has been a lot of tension within Violent Femmes for a while. They have split multiple times to try and start solo careers and have also cycled through four different percussionists. Bassist Brian Ritchie also filed a lawsuit against Gano that led to the band’s latest breakup in 2009.
Through everything, “We Can Do Anything” might be the perfect title for the latest record from the Violent Femmes. They’ve shown us that they can do anything and work through anything to give the fans what they want.