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Released: 1989

1) Nightmares  2) Just Like My Father  3) Dating Days  4) Fat  5) Fool In The Full Moon  6) Nothing Worth Living For  7) World We're Living In  8) Outside The Palace  9) Telephone Book  10) Mother Of A Girl  11) Lies  12) See My Ships


On the Violent Femmes first two albums, everything they did was resonant…whether it was funny, religious, vicious or just plain crap, they always believed in the song.  On “The Blind Leading the Naked” they had the same kind of attitude, but they changed their sound and the songs were just not up to scratch, so the album suffered heavily.  Here, on “3,” they are at a crossroads, three years removed from their last studio album.  In fact, the group disbanded for a time, with each member working on solo projects.  When they got back together they seemed to have almost forgotten how to let loose, as this album is much mellower than their other efforts.  With the sedated sound, the music, at first listen is drained of its energy, but after a time, their new, more "grown-up" sound begins to grow on you.


Take the opening tune, “Nightmares.”  It is an agreeable and all in all, cute little song, but there is no bite behind it…no Femmes angst, you know?  It just sounds like a bunch of guys sitting around playing music because it is their job, and not really believing in the material.  Nightmares” gets by because it is a good song with great lyrics, but some of the rest of the album just can’t live up to their past, and what makes it worse is that because of the restrained approach, the band hardly even seems to try.  Still though, that Violent Femmes acoustic dynamic is back in full force and you are actually able to hear Ritchie’s bass and DeLorenzo’s drums, providing for some great tunes buried under the controlled calm.  Be ready though, as this album takes a while to sink in and appreciate.     


"3" can, predictably, be broken down into three categories: the slightly better than average, the pretty good, and the a little bit better than pretty good.  We’ll start with the slightly better than average:  Just Like My Father” starts off teasingly sounding like the Femmes exciting selves, but the track is only one and a half minutes long and Gano doesn’t seem all that interested in putting any emotion behind the tune.  Similarly, “Fat” sounds like a blast at first with its funny/dumb lyrics and great 50s boogie feel, but after two listens, the dumb takes over.  Fool In The Full Moon” is a nice return to their old sound, flirting with us yet again, but not really coming through and fucking us, you know?  It has a more metal feel than their previous work, and is still good, but the last minute of the song is taken up by a pointless instrumental break that is neither impressive, nor listenable.


Now on to the pretty good:  “Mother Of A Girl” begins as a restrained Gano confession to a mother about wanting to kill her daughter.  It goes on to say that he wants to pound the mother’s son into the dirt as well and this tune is catchy and entertaining.  Telephone Book” is an under two-minute, slight, novelty hoedown that I like much more than I should.  It isn’t original, but it’s catchy and for some reason I enjoy it.  You probably won’t.  Lies” is a minute long barn dance, pointless hillbilly fodder, but again it is at least catchy and fun.                    


And lastly, the a little bit better than pretty good:  Dating Days,” has an excellent acoustic bass riff, great lyrics (“It seems that no matter how much I drink, I still seem to stay sober…it seems that no matter how young I act, I mange to just get older”), and here Gano finally lets loose with some impassioned vocals.  Outside The Palace” is a great little country-folk song, well-structured and charming with a cozy feeling.  "World We’re Living In” has a great groove at the beginning with killer horns and soulful feel, but at five minutes, this song tends to drag a bit.  Still, it is more than entertaining, with lyrics dealing with the dangers of STDs.  Nothing Worth Living For” starts off with just Gano’s voice begging for something worth living for.  Slowly a piano trickles in a Gano continues his touching declaration of guilt.  The song is slow but also weary, dreary, and eerily poignant, marking a striking change of pace from the band and a fine effort.  See My Ships” is a moving religious lament.  Easily their most profound song, it is restrained but heavy at the same time with strange lyrics discussing Marvin Gaye’s father and cocaine.


This album will take a few listens to fall in like with as there isn’t anything utterly mind blowing here, but there isn’t anything that even comes close to blowing as bad as what was on their previous record either.  My problem is that I keep waiting for the band to be as good as they were on their first two albums, an unfair expectation, but an expected one.  Still, that is my problem…the record, by itself, is easily enjoyed with fine songs, presented in a slightly altered, reserved, style.  I hate to use the word “mature” for a Violent Femmes album, but this is their most mature effort and if you like their style, a very good purchase.

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