A Welcome Return
The debut LP of folk punk legends, the Violent Femmes, went platinum eight years after it’s release in 1983, despite never being a chart hit. The soundtrack to a generation of tormented youth, it figures that the entirety of the eloquently angst-ridden album was written while singer-guitarist, Gordon Gano, was a high school student in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Thirty-two years, eight studio albums and a brief hiatus later, the Violent Femmes have returned with Happy New Year EP. Released April 15, the EP is the bands’ first new material since Freak Magnet in 2000.
With the release of their debut album and their subsequent ‘80s albums, the Violent Femmes asserted themselves as a quirky, folk rock band with Gano’s principle influences at the point. The messy, sometimes chaotic, raw punk-acoustic sound incorporates a spectrum of genres including punk rock, grunge, country, traditional folk and even some gospel attributed to Gano’s Baptist upbringing. The iconic anguish of his voice, reminiscent of the styling’s of Lou Reed, envelops the rebellious, punk nature that is the Violent Femmes. The albums released in the ‘90s did not sell as well as anticipated, yet albums such as New Times (1994) feature some of the bands’ most complex and innovative songs. The tracks on these albums tend to stray lightly away from the original folk rock aesthetic and lean more toward alternative rock with a heavier electric influence. Happy New Year EP successfully revisits the sound and structure of an early Violent Femmes.
Happy New Year EP is a quick collection of four tightly crafted and potent tracks. The EP begins with “Happy New Year Next Year,” a spritely ditty that leaves a delightfully poignant taste in the listener’s mouth. The album continues with a dark, Latin twist in “Love Love Love Love Love.” The Violent Femme’s horn section creates a sorrowful spice to the track. “Good for Nothing” is a fast paced, funky groove composed of infectious, self-loathing lyrics that beg to be sung along with. The album closes with a grunge-infused country ballad “Fast Horses.” As far as ballads go, it’s no “Good Feeling” (Violent Femmes, 1983), yet it serves its purpose as an effective, mellow closing track.
The Violent Femmes have always been an esoteric cult classic, comforting a misunderstood generation in a way only punk music can. Happy New Year EP marks the much-needed return of an incredibly unique and influential band.