Picks and Pans Review: The Blind Leading the Naked

updated 03/24/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/24/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

Violent Femmes

Seven years ago in a Milwaukee high school, a crowd poked fun at the nerds by calling them femmes. But the rockers now operating under that derogatory name have become a cool band. Even if they pose for their album photo dressed like dorks, with their arms stuck elbow-deep into the mouths of giant dead fish, these guys wear anything well. As their oxymoronic name implies, the Violent Femmes make a habit of combining extreme opposites to create something new. Lead singer Gordon Gano has one of the world's most licentious voices, at once wicked, witty, desperate and sometimes appropriately violent. Within each song, contrasts abound: Political crises and personal neuroses blend in one lyric, or a screaming introduction leads to a whispered refrain. Talking Heads keyboardist Jerry Harrison, who produced the LP and plays backup, deserves credit for adding extra instruments without drowning out the words. Probably because the Femmes are born-again Christians, their lyrics have become more restrained than the wonderfully raunchy rhymes of their earlier work. Still, the group maintains enough humor and angst to keep even their religious songs fresh. Breakin' Hearts, a rollicking plaint about a faithless lover, is one of the finest Femmes tunes ever, mixing sarcasm and naïveté. This third album gives more evidence that the Violent Femmes rank with the very best bands of the 1980s. (Slash/Warner Bros.)

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