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Violent Femmes & Gender Duality - Bands with Perfect Names
MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #21




NICK – “You Can’t Touch Me” (from Listen You People)

REC – “Lost Found” (from Sympathy for the Weird)

"Never Tell" (live acoustic performance by Nick) -

"American Music" (live acoustic performance by Nick) -



When a new band finds the right name for itself, it’s magic. They don’t always get it right the first time. Imagine if “Jeremy” was released by Mookie Blaylock. Or if The Hype did “With or Without You”. Or the Young Aborigines scored a hit with “Sabotage”. Those band names do not support the attitude & spirit of the songs. Thankfully inspiration gave us the far more dead-on Pearl Jam, U2 and the Beastie Boys. And those are three of dozens of famous bands that took some trial and error to nail the name.


Violent Femmes, however, killed it right off. Sure, it was intended as an off the cuff joke name. But as soon as the two founding members, Brian Ritchie and Victor DeLorenzo, discovered Gordon Gano, it made perfect sense. Brian and Victor had the post-punk rhythm and attitude with an extra shot of weirdness. Gordon had the singing chops - nasal weird kid-like talk-singing that fit so well, and songs that spoke openly about sensitive, painful, awkward feelings without the defensiveness that often pushes singer/songwriters to macho it up.


It was raw and new and instantly worked. Their music embodied both the violent “masculine” emotional confusion all adolescents feel, and the vulnerability of undressed honesty often associated with a person’s “feminine” side. And by doing so without apology it showed all that masculine-feminine stuff is bullcrap. There’s no reason to label what a person feels, how they act, or how they express themselves. Open up and say whatever comes out. Get angry and aggressive. Get confessional and insecure. It’s all just being a complete and truly vulnerable human.


Did they intend for their name to represent all this? Or their music for that matter? No. The synergy was accidental. The unadorned arrangements (acoustic bass AND drums with no kick!), vocals and words just happened to come together to embody the exact gender duality the name hints at. And they did it with an in-your-face, we don’t care what you think folk punk attitude that influenced a whole generation of bands. They were pre-emo - one of the seminal 1980s bands that gave permission for tons of other bands to get confessional without defense.


And I’m included in that group. Whenever I’d write lyrics that felt too raw and revealing, I looked to the Femmes (and the Cure and few others) to reassure me that I didn’t need to hide the words behind aggressive music. Below are an early-ish song and a much more recent one that both show this.


NICK – “You Can’t Touch Me” (from Listen You People)

REC – “Lost Found” (from Sympathy for the Weird)


Do you remember the Femmes? Did you know they just put out a new album last year? Are there other bands you like who hold this same kind of duality? Discuss dammit!



"Never Tell" -

"American Music" -

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