Released on April 13, 1983.

When I say “underrated ’80s album,” what comes to mind? Probably not the one I’m writing about on it’s 40th anniversary.


Violent Femmes released their self-titled debut album 40 years ago: April 13, 1983. Reading that back, it looks like a typo. For some reason, my brain doesn’t equate the Femmes with the early ’80s music scene. Maybe it’s because the album got a second life when it was released on CD in 1987; the original 1983 release was only available on record and cassette up until that point. Or maybe it’s because the Femmes were a few years ahead of the mid-to-late-’80s alternative boom.


That’s where the “influential” bit comes in. Much like Pixies weren’t known or appreciated much outside of the Boston area until Kurt Cobain started name-checking them as an influence, it took awhile for music fans outside of Wisconsin to catch up to what the Femmes were doing. The burn was so slow, in fact, that it took Violent Femmes four years to go gold, then another four years to be certified platinum. By that time, it was 1991, and a new generation of bands were benefitting from the work that Gordon Gano & Co. had put in almost a decade earlier.


This Influential Yet Underrated ’80s Album Just Turned 40

Maybe you’re saying: “12, you can’t call a platinum album underrated.” Maybe you’re right. But think of it this way: when I ask you to name the most influential alternative acts of the ’80s, who do you name drop? R.E.M., The Cure, New Order and the like, right? Well, you should be mentioning the Femmes, too. They were putting into practice the concept of “alternative” before that word had really become a known quantity. I talked a bit about the band’s history and legacy with Gordon Gano; you can listen to that here.


In the meantime, revisit a handful of 40-year-old cuts from Violent Femmes that don’t sound 40. They sound timeless.

  • "Blister In The Sun"

    The leadoff cut and leadoff single.

  • "Kiss Off"

    Not an official single, but got a ton of play on FNX back in the day.

  • "Add It Up"

    If you ever get to see the Femmes live, prepare to sing along with this one. Loudly.

  • "Gone Daddy Gone"

    Xylophone solo!

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