Borderline Latin: Violent Femmes, Los Abuelos del Folk Punk

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Borderline Latin is an exploration of the influence of Latin music in styles, places and rhythms beyond its traditional borders, and of different types of cross-pollination between Latin music and other musical creatures. Each week, we will feature a song or musical style whose rhythm, themes, melodic inflections or influences have earned it the name of Borderline Latin.

When Gordon Gano, Brian Ritchie and Victor DeLorenzo went out looking for fans in the streets of Milwaukee, they probably never imagined they would bump into James Honeyman-Scott, from The Pretenders, but to their good luck they did. Sooner rather than later, they opened a show for The Pretenders, and started a career that has now touched three decades –and we can never be entirely certain that they won’t be back to touch this one. At least this is the way the legend of the origins of Violent Femmes goes –the way I’ve heard it.

Violent Femmes proclaim to be the Grandfathers of Folk Punk, and the truth is they have combined punk with several ingredients extracted from an array of different musical traditions. Their first album, called Violent Femmes, was released in 1983, when punk had already spawned its own post era. It was a hit, and it includes songs like “Blister in the Sun” and “Gone Daddy Gone” –which was recently covered by Gnarls Barkley, prompting the Violent Femmes to record their own version of Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy. Since then, they have produced several records, the band has split and has got back together, and Gano even sold one of their songs for a commercial, angering the rest of the band.

Besides having tried different styles and rhythms, including gospel, and mixing them together, they often used instruments like the cajón, a mariachi guitar, and were accompanied by a horn section they call Horns of Dilemma, thus proving their borderline status. Gano has had a solo career and recorded a song in Portuguese. So check them out, and just so you get a taste of how well they combine with other spirits, here’s a Robbie Rivera remix of “Blister in the Sun,” it’s a FREE download too.

Download songs by Violent Femmes below:

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