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Near perfect

Violent Femmes - Permanent Record: The Very Best Of
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Nov. 10, 2005
Violent Femmes

Review by Andy Argyrakis

When the Violent Femmes debuted in 1980, the rock and roll world didn't quite know what to make of the group's idiosyncratic demeanor, sarcastic songwriting and bizarre behavior. But the Milwaukee based band found enormous favor with a cult following and even landed on the radio every now and then thanks to members' abilities to think outside the box and craft cuts in a way that were odd yet immediate. Considering such a lengthy history, continual time on the road and several studio albums that became top critic's picks, it's about time the gang came out with an all-encompassing career retrospective to showcase such surprising sounds. And that's exactly what core members Gordon Gano (vocals/guitar), Brian Ritchie (bass) and Victor DeLorenzo (drums) have assembled come 2005's Permanent Record, covering the biggest and best, strangest and strongest.

In terms of the immediately familiar, there's no question what song made the most impact on audiences of all associations and that's been "Blister In the Sun." It's one of the few tracks of 80s that have gone on to achieve indie credibility and sports bar status, literally being played in every arena of public awareness and recognized by virtually everyone who hasn't lived under a rock for the past two decades. But beyond that catchy glow, there's still others of additional air wave merit, such as the angry acoustics of "Add It Up," a cover of T. Rex's "Children of the Revolution" and the boiling over urgency of "Kiss Off." Additional fan favorites include the Talking Heads tipped "Freak Magnet," a live version of the southern drawled "Country Death Song" and the jangle guitar nugget "Nightmares."

Lyrically the band demonstrates a wide array of topics, ranging from the teenage lustiness of "Gimme the Car" to religion throughout "Jesus Walking On the Water" to a relationship's dissolve during "Breakin' Up." Such a seemingly random display of themes adds to the band's mystique, which when traced throughout this disc's chronological revolution, also demonstrates its consistency and commitment to quirkiness. If there's one beef to be made with otherwise comprehensive track listing, it's the omission of the hysterical Culture Club cover "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?" The 1991 album gem would've fit perfectly with the other cheeky selections and added a bit of additional hipster humor. But even in its absence, Permanent Record is a near perfect book end to this lengthy chapter of the Violent Femmes' celebrated career likely to attract completists and casual newcomers alike.

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