Sunday, 26 July 2009
I heard the first Violent Femmes album on a hissy old C45 cassette, the inlay whited-out with Tippex and scrawled with the band's (brilliant) name. It must have been around 1987, and there are few things I've loved with such instantaneous certainty. Great bubbling acoustic bass lines, drums that transmitted the sheer pleasure of whacking something hard to keep rhythm, frenetic gut-string guitar - and above all, the songs, and the voice....
Long before Jeffrey Lewis and all those other too-hip, adenoidal, attitudinal anti-folk types whined their faux-naif songs to each other in Brooklyn bars, there was Gordon Gano and his permanently disaffected yelp. This was the real Revenge of the Nerd, not an artistic impression. A pissy little Baptist boy from Milwaukee, Gano's songs were smart without being 'clever', funny without being 'ironic', gothic without being 'camp'; they could blindside you with genuine anger and furious emotional force, or make you cringe with their mercilessly deployed home truths.
I lost track of the Violent Femmes some way back, but I was sent Gano's new album a few weeks ago and hearing that petulant squeal of a voice again felt so good, like a woe-is-me call from an old friend. People still rave about the eponymous first album and follow-up Hallowed Ground, both of which are indeed superb, but Why Do Birds Sing? holds a special place in my heart. This song is from another album entirely. It's called "Fat", and it's a proper love song.