Violent Femmes - We Can Do Anything
There has been a slew of 80s/90s band reunions over the last couple of years, The Stone Roses to Veruca Salt, whose original break-ups didn’t so much wind down in private as explode publicly. Violent Femmes are one of the latest groups to rise from the ashes of broken bands and We Can Do Anything spells the end of a 16 year hiatus since 2000’s Freak Magnet. Singer Gordon Gano and bassist Brian Ritchie have managed to put down their lawsuits for long enough to pull together an album of reworked older demos, lost songs, and some newer ones thrown in for good measure, and along with Dresden Dolls drummer Brian Viglione, have delivered mixed results.
What We Can Do Anything does deliver is the bands classic sound, with Gano’s sneering vocals and twitchy guitar, Ritchie’s elastic band snapping bass work, with Viglione smacking brush work on the single snare drum – all supporting wry and offbeat lyrical content. Album opener 'Memory' is classic early Femmes, in the vein of 'Blister In The Sun', and barrels along quite merrily and delivers what you would expect from the group. Other highlights include 'I Could Be Anything', a narrative of tales of dragon slaying and throne ascension played out by a Polka group playing an apocalypse party, 'Holy Ghost' themes of Christian awe, 'Big Car' which starts as a double-entendre laden track about lady issues which mutates into a murder ballad, and 'Foothills' ode to masturbatory fantasies.
The album runs at ten brisk tracks and really runs at a 50/50 split between highlights and filler; the key problem here. Violent Femmes have never had a great track record of producing albums as good as some of their great songs. They've often been seen to be riding on the coat-tails of their 1986 debut and producing memorable tracks over the years such 'Machine', 'Black Girls', and the in your face cover of 'Children of The Revolution', as a result the album does feel like a pale copy, substituting style over substance. However, it delivers a hopeful glimmer of what the group could become again if they can stand to be around each other.