thu 05/12/2019

CD: Violent Femmes - Hotel Last Resort | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Violent Femmes - Hotel Last Resort

CD: Violent Femmes - Hotel Last Resort

Mixed bag from US punk veterans on second post-comeback album

Violent Femmes are in a mostly playful mood on Hotel Last Resort

Violent Femmes might be one of America’s most distinctive-sounding bands. There’s no mistaking the combination of Gordon Gano’s laconic, speak-sung vocals and Brian Ritchie’s bass that has been at the heart of the band since the early 80s. On Hotel Last Resort, the band’s 10th album (and second since their 2013 comeback), they play with many sounds: comic slacker rock, blunted bossa nova, high-profile guest spot showcase, deadbeat lullaby, demented barbershop. But there’s no point at which it doesn’t sound like the Violent Femmes.

The album finds the band - now a four-piece following the formal incorporation of drummer John Sparrow and multi-instrumentalist Blaise Garza into the line-up - in a mostly playful mood. Opener “Another Chorus” is the tongue-in-cheek lament of the dad-rock crew out way past their bedtimes, while the album closes with a reworking of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” that is more deranged than downbeat thanks to a closing free-jazz solo. In between, there’s a gloriously bizarre avant-jazz cover of a song by Greek rock band Pyx Lax punctuated by what sounds like a rhythmic bicycle bell - which is hardly the most unexpected track on an album which also incorporates a reworking of the band’s anarchic 1994 punk hit “I’m Nothing” incorporating guest vocals from the pro skateboarder with whom they have just collaborated on a new Nike shoe.

That’s the good. The bad? It’s a point of view, of course, but for a chunk of this record the band were simply having too much fun to worry about making it listenable. The exceptionally boring title track, clocks in at over five minutes in length but feels at least twice that, might be intended as a meditation on inertia and loneliness but really isn’t clever enough - a jarring, nonsensical line about manure gives the game away - while oddball penultimate track “Sleepin’ at the Meetin’” goes even further to put the ‘scat’ in ‘scatological’.

Lisa-Marie Ferla's website

Below: hear "I'm Nothing" by Violent Femmes featuring pro skateboarder Stefan Janoski

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