Violent Femmes’s We Can Do Anything (2016): Raw energy and quirky beauty

After 16 years, the Violent Femmes release their first full-length studio album, We Can Do Anything, on March 4, 2016.

The first time I had heard of the Violent Femmes was in 1994 on the soundtrack for the movie The Crow, which includes their song Color Me Once. I remember liking their melodramatic and raw feel, filled with lots of reverb in the music production. I never became a hardcore fan of theirs, but started enjoying selected VF albums on a regular basis.

The very first spin of the new album, We Can Do Anything, reminds me exactly of the feeling I described above – and this is 22 years later. The album might be considered rather short with its 31 minutes and 53 seconds in length. However, today, when listeners seem to rush from one thing to the other and do not have – or want to invest – too much time sitting down and just listen to music, half an hour might even be a good timespan for this kind of record.

I like the arguable musical diversity on We Can Do Anything, which does not take anything away from the fact that all songs sound as if they were brewed in the same pot. My favourites are Memory, Holy Ghost, and What You Really Mean, but I Could Be Anything or Big Car bring a smile to my face, too.

In my years, the Violent Femmes’s We Can Do Anything is a contemporary gem of old-school indie-rock that encompasses raw energy and quirky beauty, while capturing the essence of what made the band great and unique when I first heard them. Kudos to Gordon Gano, Brian Ritchie, and Brian Viglione for that.

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“We Can Do Anything is fun and eclectic, a mostly acoustic collection that combines the old school, single tone Punk of early Violent Femmes with a newer, fresher bit of Pop, and even a tinge of Country flair.” – Tracy Allen, crypticrock.com

“Through turmoil and an extended layoff, the Femmes have navigated some significant obstacles on their way back up to the musical surface. That needs to be taken into consideration in assessing We Can Do Anything. The band’s ninth studio effort ebbs and flows, but in the end, it has enough going for it to merit its existence, which is more than a lot of bands can say about their second-stands.” – Ryan Bray, consequenceofsound.net

“Violent Femmes have spent most of their career in the shadow of their debut album. But they used to get some juice out of trying to get out from under it. The most memorable recordings of their subsequent career have been the biggest departures: the industrial fever-hallucination “Machine”, the holy-rolling shock-skronk of “Black Girls”, the in-your-face T. Rex cover “Children of the Revolution.” They’re not trying to pull off anything like that any more; instead, they’re polishing up the durable façade of their signature sound, while the songwriting that it used to support has crumbled.” – Douglas Wolk, pitchfork.com

“Despite three co-writes and songs rescued after the long hiatus from decades-old demo cassettes, “We Can Do Anything” lasts just 31 minutes. It’s quality time and hopefully the Femmes will be back with another, even better encore.” – Pablo Gorondi, wtop.com

“The new We Can Do Anything seems like it wants to capture, or reclaim, the character of those early albums. Or maybe just prove that it can try. Either way, considering that both founding members Gano and Ritchie, despite their battles, are still plugging along side-by-side, it seems perfectly conceivable that they might be able to.” – Kevin Warwick, avclub.com

Sebastiano Mereu

YouTuber + host of the #FHTZ online music show with co-producer @simonkurt + marketing & digital content producer + university lecturer