Jon Reed Goes Off On... April 2007
Wednesday, April, 11 2007
I'd like a Frosty and some Violent Femmes on the Side
Struggling musicians come in all flavors and eras. Before you know it, your favorite cool 80s band is passing the hat around. In this blog, we've talked about how I give a hall pass to one hit wonders who long ago snorted away their take from a bad music contract and need some type of pension plan. These days, that pension plan takes the form of a large corporation in search of a credibility fix. It's hard to hold it against a has-been when they sell the one possession that's worth something. What we don't appreciate is when a band bends over too fast and too willingly, as if they are almost enjoying the whoring process. Perhaps they have seduced themselves into thinking that it's ok to shill their best work because everybody does it, or because the average consumer doesn't care. They're right about that last part, but I get enough emails to know that I'm not the only one who hates the stench of unnecessary compromise. Which brings us to the tricky case of the Violent Femmes. The Femmes were more than a one hit wonder. On the other hand, it's safe to say that their lifetime revenues will never adequately compensate them for the impact they've had. Are the Femmes low on cash these days? Are they sick of playing gigs at state fairs and casinos? Do they even have control how over their songs are sold? Nobody can say. Bands keep these things to themselves, leaving us to draw our own conclusions on limited information. Fine, I'll draw a conclusion: the Femmes just laid a big smelly egg. It took twenty years, but they finally took the hamburger-lined path of least corporate resistance. Surely there are art house films in search of a Femmes song for their soundtrack. Can it be that the only suitor with disposable cash was Wendy's? Only the french fries know for sure. What I do know is that the once-proud Violent Femmes, an underrated '80s band that resisted both hair band derivatism and New Wave imitationism, have been disarmed. They are no longer the Violent Femmes. They are officially the non-Violent Femmes. No, they are the Corporate Femmes. Back in the day, they crafted their own sound and found popularity on their terms. Now they serve as the soundtrack of reassurance for attractive thirty-somethings who thought they had outgrown Wendy's but are wrong. Wendy's is a perfect place to take your upwardly-mobile colleagues before a night at the movies. But don't take my word for it - the Femmes think so too. Fans of the band will keep listening to them, and maybe I will too. Just one request: don't call them the Violent Femmes anymore. If you can't bear to call them the French Fried Femmes, or Wendy's Bag Job, then the plain old Femmes will do. Would Dave have allowed this if he was alive? I think the Violent Femmes would have been a bit too edgy for Dave. Dave would have insisted on Wayne or Juice Newton. Better yet, he would have done the commercial himself. Too bad - he could have saved me from the violence I stole from the Femmes.