• Title: Balls the Early 1980’s? Remember the Violent Femmes: Roseland
  • Author: Peter Watrous
  • Publication: The New York Times (The Arts p. 14)
  • Date: 07-23-94

The Violent Femmes, who played on Thursday night, are an odd band, a leftover from rock’s new wave of the early 1980’s. The bands has all sorts of new-wave affectations; everything it sings is ironic, and it has an interest in discarded elements of American musical pop culture, the B-side phenomenon. But it still has a young audience: at Roseland, mosh pits opened up all over the crowded dance floor, and men and women were thrown toward the stage. People were there to have a good time.

The band, led by the guitarist and song writer Gordon Gano, is a trio, and it’s a trio that clearly loves the formality of American rock and pop songs. It also clearly loves fooling with the forms, and on a handful of pieces, it ended its performances by segueing into sections of raw noise, thrashing around like a beached fish. On several tunes, the careful song writing included short eruptions of rhythmic bashing that vanished quickly, letting the pieces go on their way as if nothing had happened. If the noise and dissonance were a little more hidden, it might be considered subversive; out in the open, it was just another texture, and normal.

The band played pieces from across its career, starting with its still-popular first album, “Violent Femmes” (Slash), and moving through a large chunk from its most recent album, “New Times” (Elektra). Unlike on the albums, where sound is restrained, the band was at Roseland to make a big noise, to be the focus of a raucous party meant to drive the audience wild.