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CD Reviews: Review of Permanent Record: The Very Best of Violent Femmes by The Violent Femmes
Paulsen Home / CD Reviews Home / Entertainment Channel / Entertainment Web Guide

Click here to buy yourself a copy from Amazon.com Violent Femmes: Permanent Record: The Very Best of Violent Femmes
(Rhino/Wea 2005)

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Putting together a greatest hits compilation can be a dicey proposition. Things get even tougher when the band in question has a fantastic debut that they are never able to subsequently match. Throw in the fact that the band usually sounds better live than they do in the studio and it can make putting together a definitive collection next to impossible. This is the situation that the Violent Femmes were in when compiling their most recent greatest hits attempt, Permanent Record: The Very Best of the Violent Femmes. While all the hits are accounted for, fans will argue with the decision to leave a few cult favorites off the disc.

In truth, the Violent Femmes only have five “hits” – in this case, songs most casual fans would recognize – “Blister In The Sun,” “Kiss Off,” “Add It Up,” “Gone Daddy Gone” and “American Music.” Two other songs – “Nightmares” and “Breakin’ Up” – apparently charted, but I hadn’t heard them before hearing them on this disc. After that, it’s up to the band to compile a list of songs to fill out the disc. The problem is that each fan is going to have their own favorites depending on when they discovered the group and how deep their fanaticism runs. For instance, several songs from the band’s debut were left off – most noticeably “Please Do Not Go” and “Prove My Love,” which are both very solid, deserving tunes. The collection does provide a few pleasant surprises - the biggest being how easily “I Held Her in My Arms” wormed its way into my brain and, subsequently, into my music collection. What’s even more surprising is that it accomplished this feat while featuring a saxophone solo – and I hate saxophone solos. There are only two live tracks on the disc: the fan favorite “Country Death Song” and the quasi-beautiful “Good Feeling.” The band sounds so good in concert that it’s a shame that they don’t just release the best live versions of these songs instead of forcing their fans to cobble their own collection together.

Outside of leaving off the two aforementioned tracks from their debut, it’s hard for a casual fan to quibble with the studio versions that were chosen. It would be nice to have live versions of the five hits along with “I Held Her in My Arms” to round out the collection. Now that we’re in the era of digital music, fans might be better off picking and choosing their own favorites. In the end, all of the group’s best songs are there and most of the better ones, so it’s not a bad collection for those that don’t want to put in the time to make their own. 

~John Paulsen 


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