THE Violent Femmes often sound like their old selves on “We Can Do Anything,” their ninth studio album and first since 2000.
Singer-guitarist Gordon Gano and acoustic bass guitarist Brian Ritchie got back together in 2013 for a Coachella performance of their first album on the 30th anniversary of its release and later toured with Barenaked Ladies.
All that came after a long feud fueled by Gano’s decision to allow the use of “Blister In the Sun” — whose acoustic-and-snare riff draws the same reaction from some people as “Stairway to Heaven” does from guitar store employees — in a fast food commercial.
While the Milwaukee group, now with a rotating roster of backing musicians, has habitually alternated aggression and vulnerability, “What You Really Mean” is a real standout, a tender tune about commitment written by Gano’s sister, Cynthia Gayneau.
“Holy Ghost” could have fit on the band’s classic debut and sounds like Lou Reed dropped by to sing lead, while “Big Car” is related to “Travelling Solves Everything” by the transportation theme but may derail listeners with its horror ending.
Not everything gels. The accordion-driven “I Could Be Anything” is goofy and “Issues” may be too overwrought even for those with an “it’s complicated” relationship status.
Despite three co-writes, rare for Gano, and songs rescued after the long hiatus from decades-old demo cassettes, “We Can Do Anything” lasts just 31 minutes. It’s quality time and hopefully the Femmes will be back with another, even better encore. (AP)