We Can Do Anything
It says a lot about the staying power of Violent Femmes’ 1983 self-titled debut album that people are still excited about new material from the pioneering folk-punk trio, despite the general consensus that they’ve never quite managed to reproduce that early magic. It’s not that their later records are duds – more that their debut captured the hormonal excesses of teen angst in a uniquely visceral, authentic way.
It would be unrealistic to expect the Milwaukee trio to sustain that once they’d left adolescence behind, but it’s impossible for them to escape their legacy. As well, the chemistry between the members never really recovered after drummer/founding member Victor DeLorenzo left in 1993. DeLorenzo returned in the 00s for reunion tours, quit again in 2009 and 2013, and the band disbanded temporarily in 2009 after bassist Brian Ritchie sued guitarist/vocalist Gordon Gano for selling Blister In The Sun for a Wendy’s commer-cial. (The newest incarnation features Dresden Dolls drummer Brian Viglione in DeLorenzo’s spot and Ritchie back in the fold.)
We Can Do Anything kicks off promisingly with Memories, a ragged folk-punk song that would’ve fit in well on 1991’s underrated Why Do Birds Sing. Unfortunately the follow-up title track derails that momentum with goofy lyrics about dra-gons and other novelties. Holy Ghost and I’m Not Done come close to the raw intensity of their early work and benefit from a more stripped-down production style. The less effective Issues and Traveling Solves Everything unnecessarily gloss things up with too much instrumentation.
The album repeatedly teases you with glimpses of the unhinged, earnest urgency that made the Violent Femmes semi-famous, and then flips into an annoying faux naive whimsy just as you’re starting to enjoy it.
Top track: Holy Ghost