Violent Femmes - The Blind Leading the Naked (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Violent Femmes

The Blind Leading the Naked (1986)

Slash / Warner Bros.

So, you bought the Violent Femmes' self-titled folk/punk debut and loved it. Or the best-of compilation Add It Up (1991-1993). Either/or. You're convinced they must've written other great songs besides "Blister in the Sun" and "Kiss Off." But where to start? Well, here are two arguments for picking up the band's third album, The Blind Leading the Naked, from 1986. One's for, the other against.

Let's start with the pros: It's a good album. Helmed by Talking Heads guitarist/keyboardist Jerry Harrison, it's probably the best-produced Femmes record. Fittingly, it shows a few Heads-y qualities -- it wouldn't have been too weird hearing David Byrne sing "Breakin' Hearts" or "Good Friend." Harrison also adds some world music touches via sax, tabla and warm-sounding gospel-style backup vocals. Even the cover recalls Little Creatures -- just filtered through the Femmes' perspective -- which means that frontman Gordon Gano is still singing about religion and sex. He even channels his anger toward politics, like on the 32-second politi-punk rabble-rouser "Old Mother Reagan," which takes ol' Nancy to task. Same goes for "No Killing," an epic anti-war anthem that stretches beyond five minutes, which feels extra long compared to the preceding "Reagan" track.

At the same time, though, Blind is practically a 180-degree turn from Violent Femmes. "Faith" is a bluesy, harmonica-laden tune about the importance of God. When Gano unironically gets to the bridge, in which he actually spells out the title, it just might piss off a few atheists. For a guy who previously sang about taking pills to blot out the pain of a "lost God," it's weird hearing Gano celebrate Christ just a few years later. Blind's breadth might also turn off some people. "Good Friend" sounds like a "classic" Femmes tune, but "Special" is more of a herky-jerky Devo homage while "Breakin' Hearts" goes country. "Love & Me Make Three" sounds like a Diamond Dogs B-side, which is funny since "Children of the Revolution," a cover of an actual glam rock song (T. Rex), sounds very much like an '80s pop song -- synthetic and forced, yet kinda catchy.

I'd call the record overstuffed and unfocused if (A) it wasn't only 37 minutes long and (B) I didn't dig it so much. Blind has little to do with Violent Femmes, but for people who dig the upper echelons of the '80s punk/post-punk canon, this one is a lost classic.