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Gordon Gano | Hitting The Ground (Cooking Vinyl)
With the splendid recent re-release of the Violent Femmes astonishing first album on Rhino, lead singer Gordon Gano's profile is as high as it's been for years. Never had a band that started off so well disappointed so greatly as each successive album saw the law of diminishing returns so brutally proved. And it was a shame. Because, in Gordon Gano, the Femmes had a singer and songwriter so idiosyncratic and compelling, so twisted and bitter, that you just wanted more and more while having to settle for less and less. So, for Gano's first release under his own name, expectations were high. Thus it was somewhat discouraging to find that Gano himself would only sing three songs on the new album and the rest would be sung by his chosen group of singers. Much more encouraging was the news that these singers included Lou Reed, John Cale and PJ Harvey. PJ starts things off with the title track and immediately you're transported back to the beer, leather and cigarette smell of CBGB's circa 1976. Harvey wails and screams against gnashing guitars and stuttering drums sounding like Patti Smith at her acerbic best. It's a short, power-packed burst of energy that sets the album up. Next up is Mary Lou Lord who, with her trademark whispered style and gentle acoustics resembles nothing so much as a steroid-boosted Victoria Williams on a Bubblegum kick. It's a track that's bound to annoy and thrill in equal measures. Gano steps up to the mic for the next track, Make It Happen, a delirious amphetamine rush through early Femmes and the Ramones with its call and response vocals and NY 'attitood'. John Cale weighs in with a sombre, intense Don't Pretend, his typical percussive key strokes and Welsh accent making you long for a new album from this underrated artist. It's by far and away the best track here. Former VU sparring partner and hatedoll Lou Reed is up next with the dirty, grungy semi-spoken word Catch 'Em In The Act which sounds like the long lost cousin to Egg Cream or an outtake from the fiery 'Ecstasy' album. Frank Black does Black Flag in an almost palindromic maneouver while They Might Be Giants surprise with a soft, Smile-era Beach Boys soundalike. And finally we get to the last two songs, sung by Gano himself, the woefully short, psychotic nursery rhyme of It's Money and a reprise of the title track, Gano out-yelping Harvey in the feral stakes, borne along by an awesome, deep rumbling bass that sounds like the very earth is shifting under your feet. So, what to make of it all? It's short and always entertaining, reaching a few undoubted high spots but due to its very nature, it's a bitty work, the clashing styles sometimes working, sometimes not and it leaves you yearning for the true Gano solo album that is yet to come. But until then, this will definitely do.
CWAS #11 - Autumn 2002