If you are like me and think that the Violent Femmes are one of if not the very best rock group of the last twenty-five years, you will already own this album because it is, in a word, essential. Those who may just be discovering this band for the first time, and this timeless music full of angst and fury and questions and passion speaks as strongly to the present generation of youth as it did to my own, will definitely want to procure this album as soon as possible. There is just no other band like the Violent Femmes (as the Intro to this album states in its own special way); these guys have energized and heavily influenced modern rock music as we know it now and will know it in the future, yet they stay below the radar of many a music fan out there, seemingly happy about the fact as they do their own thing their own way at all times. The popular success this band has always deserved would almost spoil everything, though; these guys are so incredible that I really don't want to share them with the mass public out there who really wouldn't understand the power of the music and lyrics. Add It Up is a compilation album, containing a number of songs available elsewhere alongside some amazing tracks you can't find anywhere else. Much of this material draws from the band's early days. Prereleased tracks include Blister in the Sun, Gone Daddy Gone, and Gimme the Car from the incredible self-titled debut album, the unique and unforgettable Country Death Song, Black Girls, and Jesus Walking on the Water from Hallowed Ground, Old Mother Reagan from The Blind Leading the Naked, and American Music and Out the Window from Why Do Birds Sing? Add it up, and you will find eleven previously unreleased tracks, two tracks previously unreleased in the U.S., and four live performances unavailable elsewhere. The simple yet catchy Waiting For the Bus takes us back to 1980 (this track can also now be found on the Deluxe Edition of the original Violent Femmes album). Gordon's Message is a voice mail message lead singer Gordon Gano left to explain why he was going to be late for an early recording session in 1982. 36-24-36 is an incredibly infectious, fun song recorded in 1984 for a movie that was never made. I Held Her in My Arms is an alternate version of the song from The Blind Leading the Naked, espousing a heavier and slightly more serious sound than the album track. From the mid-1980s come the short and interesting tracks I Hate the TV and America Is. Degradation is a strange, half-minute carnival-like pitch of the band written by Brian Ritchie and Victor Delorenzo. Dance, M.F., Dance is a rather weird, hard-hitting pseudo-dance song previously released only in Australia and Europe; interestingly, this version of the song turned up out of nowhere several years after the original master tape was lost. Lies is interesting because it begins with the studio cut from the album 3 and morphs into a live version of the song featuring an extended jam session. Vancouver is by far the strangest thing on here; this two-minute-plus track is an instrumental that sounds like a band warming up before a concert. With the exception of Vancouver, which was indeed recorded in Vancouver, the album closes out with some powerful live tracks. We get a rocking version of the youth anthem Kiss Off recorded in a 1990 concert in Australia, followed by a fantastic live performance of Add It Up from a 1991 concert in Virginia. I never tire of hearing the crowd erupt when Gano unleashes the first a cappella word of the song. Finally, we have Johnny, a simply amazing song written by Gordon Gano and performed in a café in Milwaukee way back in 1981; this is about as soft and tender as the Violent Femmes get, and the haunting lyrics make sure you come away from this essential album having felt your soul touched by the music.
There are many bands who play because they want to, but there are some bands who play because they must - because this world just would not be the same without them. One of those bands is the Violent Femmes. Can anybody imagine a world without The Pixies, Velvet Underground, The Stooges? Not only have they helped shape music as it is today, but they had no choice. They were simply put on this earth to create their unique style of music. But one factor with all of these bands is that they are much bigger today then when they recorded their unique music. This was a measure of their greatness. They didn't exist just to churn out the same music as everybody else, they existed because they had no choice. Unfortunately, the world was not generally ready for them. The Violent Femmes are undoubtedly one of these bands, but are still the least well known of them all. Their influences were diverse, but included the Velvets and near contemporaries such as Richard Hell and The Birthday Party. But when Nick Cave started to calm down, the tables were turned and if you want to know what the Violent Femmes sound like, then imagine the bastard love child of Lou Reed and Nick Cave with youth on its side. Although their first album is a masterpiece, Add It Up is the most complete record of the Femmes in all their glorious splendour. A mix of their best studio and live recordings (apart from the rest of their first album which should all be here) it is one of the best collections of music you are ever likely to hear. If you haven't yet discovered the Violent Femmes, then this is probably the best place to start. As soon as you hear it, you'll go out and buy Violent Femmes, the first album. So you might as well buy it at the same time, just to put you out of the misery of waiting for it to arrive.
If you like ska music you may like this, but you may not. This album definatly provides variation in the music and vocals (and i'm not sure if they actually can't sing and can't play instruments?) Yet the fact is on this album the vocals and instruments go well together and sound quite good. I'm disappointed that they didn't include the track color me once (from the crow soundtrack) but hey, you can't win them all. The best songs on this are blister in the sun, add it up, and a few others. Personally I would suggest you listen to a few of the songs before you buy this album as it only suits some people's tastes. I liked it but you may not. One thing you can say about it.... its different.
The violent femmes are a phenomena that no one can describe and that they are so unknown is a shock. This ozzie band are obviously a group of v.strange people. They combine everything from country music to heavy metal with simple, deep, thought provoking lyrics which can sometimes be downright freaky. Check out this album for a lesson in music, i can't tell you what the lesson is but there is definately one there......somewhere.