It’s been 15 years since the Violent Femmes have released any new music. In fact, if you consider that Interscope held their album Freak Magnet back two years, then it’s actually been 17. During that time we’ve seen two men elected and re-elected president, Brooklyn became America’s symbol for progress, and Kanye West put out six albums. In other words, it’s been virtually a lifetime in pop music since we heard any new material from the Milwaukee, Wisconsin folk-punk trio, but now Gordon Gano, Brian Ritchie and new member Brian Viglione (former drummer for The Dresden Dolls) have graced us with a new song that will be included on an upcoming EP.
“Love Love Love Love Love” (written by non band-member Jake Brebes) finds the group on very familiar ground. They still carry that bossa nova flair that made them such a differential act for the 80s punk scene, and Gordon Gano’s voice and delivery haven’t changed much of an iota since the group’s debut LP back in 1983. The subject matter has remained largely the same too, as Gano is still singing about desperately love-lorn characters, with lyrics like “Some do it for the summit la cumbre, Some do it for the climb/Some people know when to settle down. I can’t help but wonder what’s on the other side”.
While all the original Femmes may be in their 50s now, this connection towards youthful concerns is still relevant towards their name. Gano’s lyrics about sexual frustration allowed the band to establish itself as a poster catalyst for horny teenagers the world over, and frankly, kids these days are probably even more confused about sex then they were back then.
In one sense it’s reassuring that the band is still able to make a worthwhile pop song this late in the game, but on the other hand, it’s a bit under-nourishing, too. In the 15 years since their last record, the band has possibly become even more renowned and listened to, as many of the more popular bands they inspired (such as Weezer and Bare Naked Ladies) have courted their fan bases to discover them.
Many Femmes songs have become signature tracks for indie-rock playlists, such as “Blister in the Sun” and “Add it Up”, which are ostensibly better songs than this one. It would have been nicer to hear a bit more mature and transcendent single for this EP, rather then one that stuck to their guns. While “Love Love Love Love Love” is certainly coming from the same band, it lacks the originality and energy of the best Femmes songs.
That said, it’s far from a disaster, especially considering that other bands of their era have put out latter day work that was practically unlistenable (Pixies’ EP1, I am definitely talking about you!). “Love Love Love Love Love” is catchy, and shows that even after a decade-and-a-half break, the band is still able to capture the sound that made them so great. Hopefully the other three songs for the upcoming EP, Happy New Year, will be a bit more surprising when it sees release come Record Store Day, April 18th.