Violent Femmes Debut Getting Special Reissue For 40th Anniversary

10/10/2023 12:00 PM EDT

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Violent Femmes Debut Getting Special Reissue For 40th Anniversary

(CR) Craft Recordings is thrilled to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Violent Femmes' 1983 self-titled debut with a special reissue of the seminal cult classic. Due out December 1st and available for pre-order now, the deluxe 2-CD and digital formats will feature newly remastered audio and over a dozen demos, B-sides, and live performances from the pioneering folk-punk trio - including alternate versions of iconic songs like "Blister in the Sun," "Please Do Not Go," "Gone Daddy Gone," and "Add It Up." A special 4-disc vinyl box set will follow February 9th, 2024, limited to 5,000 copies worldwide. Housed in a lift-top box with die-cut window detail, this collectible edition offers three 180-gram LPs - the original album, alongside the demos, and live material - plus, a replica 7-inch single ("Ugly"/"Gimme the Car"). The original album and single discs are cut from the original analog tapes, while lacquers for the complete set were cut by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio. Both the CD and LP editions will feature an expansive book with new liner notes by journalist and Rolling Stone senior editor David Fricke, complete with interviews with Violent Femmes members Gordon Gano, Brian Ritchie, and Victor DeLorenzo.

Reflecting on the album's 40th anniversary, bassist Brian Ritchie shares: "I am frequently stopped on the street by people who tell me, 'Your album changed my life,' or some variant. I don't have to ask, 'Which album?' because it is implied that they're talking about the first one. The uncanny thing is that these people range from early teens to septuagenarians, and they all have the same testimony." Ritchie adds, "Sometimes music is more than just a pleasing sound that entertains. It takes on greater meaning. Multiple generations have found the songs to be relevant in their life situations. Some people say they had sex for the first time listening to it (which I find appalling but whatever) and someone even said, 'I was conceived to your music.' Wow."

Today, fans can visit digital platforms to pre-save Violent Femmes (Deluxe Edition) and stream or download the advance single, "Gone Daddy Gone / I Just Want to Make Love to You (Live)." Recorded in January 1983 at Folk City in New York, NY, this raucous early version of the longtime fan favorite includes a complete verse from Willie Dixon's 1954 song "I Just Want to Make Love to You" (originally recorded by Muddy Waters). Like all the bonus material featured on Violent Femmes (Deluxe Edition), "Gone Daddy Gone (Live)" was previously unavailable in digital format.

Released on vinyl and cassette in April 1983 - and certified Platinum by the RIAA in 1991, the same year it charted on the Billboard 200 for the first time - Violent Femmes has achieved cult status and served as a perennial discovery for music lovers partial to unbridled expression of teen angst. Just a year prior to recording their debut, Gano (vocals, guitar), Ritchie (bass), and DeLorenzo (percussion) co-founded the band in Milwaukee and got their start performing in the streets (a point of necessity rather than preference, given that local clubs refused to book them and it was too hot to practice in DeLorenzo's basement). But when members of the Pretenders caught Violent Femmes performing on the sidewalk during a tour stop at Milwaukee's Oriental Theatre, the legendary British/American band spontaneously added them to the bill at that night's sold-out show. By the following summer, Violent Femmes had landed a spot opening for punk heroes Richard Hell and the Voidoids at New York City's Bottom Line - a two-night engagement caught by Fricke himself, who soon penned a glowing review in Musician magazine. "The Violent Femmes don't just steal the show - they blow a fresh wind of post-punk originality rooted in rockabilly simplicity, the dry, folk twang of quintessential hobo Dylan and the stark bash and graphic lyricism of Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground," he wrote.

In July 1982, Violent Femmes headed to a Lake Geneva studio and cut their debut album's 10 songs in just a week, funding the sessions with a $10,000 emergency loan co-signed by DeLorenzo's father. Produced by Mark Van Hecke, Violent Femmes mostly consists of the band's first takes and centers on a raw and potent sound augmented by their idiosyncratic instrumentation (Ritchie favored an acoustic, mariachi-style bass, while DeLorenzo's minimalistic drum kit included an upside-down metal tub). "We were using tape, which was expensive, and paying for this record ourselves," Ritchie says today. "We might have a few, false starts. We'd get a take, then say, 'That sounds pretty good, let's try a few more.'" After sorting through a deluge of rejection letters from record labels, the band released their full-length debut via Slash Records (a now-defunct offshoot of the Los Angeles punk zine, also home to punk trailblazers like X, the Germs, the Misfits, the Gun Club, and more).

Both of-the-moment and strangely timeless, Violent Femmes matches its restless and frenetic breed of folk-punk with Gano's singular songwriting voice, at turns giddy, acerbic, and painfully vulnerable. "We're avant-garde because we're so reactionary," Ritchie told Rolling Stone in 1983. "We go back to improvisation, to raw emotions and primitive, old-fashioned sounds. And Gordon's songs make the whole thing accessible." To that end, the album's slippery emotionality encompasses everything from the loopy euphoria of "Blister in the Sun" to the plucky desperation of "Prove My Love" to the jittery frustration of "Add It Up" and "Kiss Off" - the latter a track whose iconic mid-song countdown features an ostensibly dashed-off but entirely intentional outburst from Gano. "That's the way I wrote it - this voice getting so carried away that he forgets what eight is for," he says. Meanwhile, Violent Femmes' exquisitely erratic musicality manifests in such unexpected forms as the bluesy catharsis of "Confessions" and the bright and bouncy exotica of "Gone Daddy Gone" (achieved through the band's use of xylorimba, a xylophone-marimba hybrid).

Released in 1987, the CD version of Violent Femmes featured two extra songs, "Ugly" and "Gimme the Car" - the latter an alluringly sour and sexually blunt track that Gano and Ritchie performed at the former's National Honor Society induction ceremony his senior year of high school (a turn of events that promptly led to Gano's expulsion). Both songs originally appeared on a 7-inch released by London-based indie label Rough Trade in 1983.

Upon its arrival in 1983, Violent Femmes quickly earned acclaim from the likes of Rolling Stone, who hailed the album as an "unnervingly precocious debut" by a band "that not only acts like it just reinvented rock & roll but somehow manages to sound like it as well." Thanks in no small part to its brutally accurate rendering of adolescent heartache and fury - courtesy of Gano, still a teenager at the time of the LP's creation - Violent Femmes only grew in cultural impact over the coming decades. In fact, Pitchfork later proclaimed that "Violent Femmes are perhaps the greatest mixtape band of its era...For those that encountered the Femmes in this manner, the band's songs were akin to outsider art - found musical data that offered bracingly unfiltered takes on lust and alienation and the yearning to belong." In the depths of the '90s alt-rock boom, the trio also took major hold of the zeitgeist: in 1994's Reality Bites (released the same year that Violent Femmes performed at Woodstock's 25th anniversary concert), Ethan Hawke serenaded Winona Ryder with an embittered rendition of "Add It Up," while a 1995 episode of My So-Called Life opened on Claire Danes joyfully lip-synching "Blister in the Sun." "It exists as an artifact of history," says DeLorenzo of the band's debut. "At the same time, it's been passed down from generation to generation which continues to make it brand new. We're in a rarified position with that record."

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