Why Do Birds Sing? by Violent Femmes
My experience thus far in life has taught me at least two things that all teenagers in America go through: feeling awkward/insecure, and listening to the first Violent Femmes album a bunch. If you didn't own that album (or hang out with someone who did) sometime between middle school and college you might want to check with your parents because you could be from another planet. Okay, so maybe it just seems like that sometimes but it amazed me at first when I'd hear a track off of that first album of theirs and the whole room would start singing along. I thought I was the only one listening to it but then I realized that that album is like the great young adult equalizer. It's a total classic and not solely because everyone stole the tape from their older sister and listened over and over, but because the songs are truly excellent. We already knew that but did you know that Violent Femmes actually put out another album that's nearly as good in 1991?
The manner in which my personal musical evolution took form placed the Violent Femmes' debut album as one of the first "alternative" records I got into. Yes ma'am, it was way back in 1990 when that album and White Light/White Heat and Jane's Addiction's live debut album helped me kick my hair metal habit to the curb and move on to liking good music of all different sizes and shapes (and sounds). One year later Why Do Birds Sing? came out, and I got my driver's license and first car, and this album became the sound of freedom.
Wait, okay, so the 'nearly as good' (mentioned earlier) doesn't quite match the master strokes found on their self titled debut but Why Do Birds Sing? is worthy of much more attention than it has gotten in the nearly 15 years since it was first released. Some folks may know the album's opener, "American Music", or the standout cover of "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me" but the great songs on this album don't end there. Let's see... You know Halloween right? Well then this is like the Halloween 4 for Violent Femmes. The movie after the first one was pretty good but when you saw it recently, not as good as you remembered it to be (Hallowed Ground and Blind Leading the Naked). Halloween 3 was just awful and didn't even have Michael Myers in it (bad just like the fourth Violent Femmes record, interestingly titled 3) but then Halloween 4 came out and reminded you why you liked cheap thrills like the Halloween series in the first place. Back to music.
"After another lengthy hiatus, the Femmes returned with Why Do Birds Sing?, a stripped-down effort that harks back to Violent Femmes and contains three tunes ("Girl Trouble," "Life Is a Scream" and "Flamingo Baby") Gano wrote during the creative frenzy that produced most of the tunes on the first two albums. Despite a decade in the biz, Gano still captures teen angst and frustration better, and more convincingly, than almost anybody. Standouts include "American Music," the Femme-ization of Culture Club's "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" (with new lyrics by Gano), "Out the Window" (a cheery paean to suicide) and "I'm Free," a goofy, quasi-religious hymn that celebrates the power of love."
UPDATE - hosting issues were somehow resolved while I was in the sticks...now you can listen to a few songs from this record!!
Previous Overlooked Albums from the 90's:
#1 - Saturnalia by The Wedding Present
#2 - The Inevitable by Squirrel Nut Zippers
#3 - This is Our Music by Galaxie 500
#4 - Dusk by The The
#5 - Fantasma by Cornelius
#6 - New Wave by The Auteurs
#7 - I, Jonathan by Jonathan Richman
#8 - Futureworld by Trans Am
#9 - Harmacy by Sebadoh
#10 - Cure For Pain by Morphine
#11 - God Fodder by Ned's Atomic Dustbin
#12 - Seven by James
if you'd like...
Pitchfork's top albums of the 90's
1st version of their list
Also, it appears another blog is onto this "Overlooked of the 90's" idea:
Top 30 'Other' Albums of the '90s