CULTURE

Cult band’s increased fame now down on permanent record

More than two decades after the Violent Femmes struck gold with an effervescent debut album, the definitive ’80s cult band is still energizing fans and maintaining a cash-cow career through the well-preserved freshness of its early work. A low-budget project recorded with little studio fuss by a bare-basics trio on guitar, acoustic bass and an incomplete drum kit, the American band’s first outing – a self-titled album released in 1983, captured teenage angst, sexual frustration and repressed rage like few others in the decadent 1980s. The early material’s sustained timelessness has helped generate ongoing tours for the Milwaukee trio for years. Following several visits to Greece over the past decade or so, the band has been booked for two shows in Athens this weekend. Performing at Club 22 (22 Vouliagmenis) on Saturday and Sunday, the Violent Femmes can expect their fans to ignite with the sound of perennial favorites such as «Blister in the Sun,» «Kiss Off,» «Add it Up,» and «Prove My Love» – all off the self-titled debut. Worthy work surfaced on ensuing albums, especially the following two – 1985’s «Hallowed Ground» and 1986’s «Blind Leading the Naked» a year later. But it’s that killer first album that has powered the band’s career. The album «Violent Femmes» failed to make a commercial impact when it was released, but its songs proved so anthemic and infectious that it became one of the most widely heard rock albums of the past couple of decades. Likely perceived as too amateurish – at the time – for mainstream radio and its preference for those high-gloss productions that ruled the airwaves in the ’80s, the acoustic folk-rock of «Violent Femmes» arrived as an incongruent addition to the scene. At the time, many other raw-sounding American bands remained sidelined. The barrier separating this rawness from the mainstream in rock music did not really start coming down until then-fringe band REM’s work started to sell. Soon, Nirvana’s catchy yet messy and disturbed sound struck hard to demolish the segregation and helped establish what became known as «alternative» rock scene. It eventually turned as banal as the music it arrived to rebel against. Prior to all this – and around the time when the Violent Femmes put out their first album – efforts by lesser-known rock bands to keep their music real and spirited were generally viewed as scrappy and meaningless flights of fancy. The Violent Femmes initially burst unnoticed onto the scene, harboring a sloppy but incredibly infectious sound that went on to become a soundtrack for troubled teenagers around the world. The debut album turned platinum about a decade after its release. The band’s follow-up, «Hallowed Ground,» took a more traditional folk and country approach, while the third outing, 1986’s «Blind Leading the Naked,» produced by Talking Heads’ Jerry Harrison, advanced toward a more mainstream style. By then, the band’s creativity had begun to wane. The Violent Femmes disbanded in the late ’80s and reformed for miles and miles of touring based mostly on the early years. Reflecting the first album’s ongoing appeal, «Violent Femmes» was rereleased in 2002 as a two-disc deluxe edition featuring 22 previously unreleased tracks. A career-spanning compilation, «Permanent Record: The Very Best Of,» was released last year. Another reformed ’80s band that floated somewhere between the fringe and mainstream during its heyday, Echo and the Bunnymen, has also been booked for a performance at Club 22 next month, on March 12. With frontman Ian McCulloch and guitarist Will Sergeant at the band’s core, Echo and the Bunnymen reformed for 1997’s stylish comeback album «Evergreen» after releasing several lauded albums in the previous decade. «Evergreen» has been followed by three more studio releases, including last year’s well-received «Siberia.»