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Rhino presents
Violent Femmes: Permanent Record: Live & Otherwise (1991)

"I hope you know that this will go down on your permanent record."
- Gordon Gano

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: July 20, 2005

Stars: Gordon Gano, Brian Ritchie, Victor DeLorenzo
Other Stars: Guy Hoffman, Caleb Alexander
Director: Phillip Waters

Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language)
Run Time: 01h:16m:07s
Release Date: July 12, 2005
UPC: 603497042821
Genre: alternative

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ A-B+A- C-

DVD Review

The Violent Femmes were one of the most intriguing alternative rock voices of the early 1980s. A Milwaukee-based trio of guitar, acoustic bass guitar and a single snare drum, the group has a distinctive sound full of whiny angst, frightened isolation and bitter misanthropy, tinged with a vile Wisconsin sense of humor. This DVD, their first, combines a legendary 1991 live performance with a sampling of their music videos to give a good overview of the group's work.

The live performance at the now-obliterated Boat House in Norkfolk, Virginia, is a steamy and hard-driving performance in 130-degree heat. Among the best numbers are the vicious love-hate song Fat and Blister in the Sun, probably the Femmes' best-known tune. Country Death Song, a twisted tale of religious obsession and isolation, reads like a musical version of Wisconsin Death Trip. The lounge-tinged noir Confessions is rendered as a smoky cry of isolation and alienation. The classics Kiss Off and Add It Up are also delivered in vivid and clenched-fist intensity, forming a witty contrast to cherubic lead singer Gordon Gano's deadpan manner. There aren't a great many cameras in use, so there's not a lot of visual variety, although there's quite active intercutting to help hide that fact.

Although the live set doesn't hit all of the Femmes' best, the omissions are mostly made up by a set of music videos of seven of the band's other songs. These videos have a common theme of Middle America gone awry, such as the broken homes of Gone Daddy Gone and the confused sexuality of I Held Her in My Arms. A warped '60s aesthetic informs the bands nasty American Music. The acidic Breaking Up is heavily effects-laden to underline the fracturing of the personality in the wake of a relationship disaster. The videos are always visually interesting, and the music is vibrant and earnest in its intensity. Fans of the band will absolutely want to own this disc. The occasionally obscene lyrics are uncensored.

Contents of the live show:

Look Like That
Out the Window
Blister in the Sun
Prove My Love
Country Death Song
Old Mother Reagan
Girl Trouble
Add It Up
Kiss Off
Good Feeling
More Money Tonight

Music Videos:

Gone Daddy Gone
Children of the Revolution
I Held Her in My Arms
American Music
Used to Be
Breaking Up

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The programs are presented in full frame. The live show is heavily red, but that seems to be the result of the lighting rather than an issue with the transfer, which actually looks quite good beyond the weak blacks that one usually finds in live stage performances. The detail is nonetheless pretty good in the live show. The music videos all look quite nice, with no complaints of any kind.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The live show is available only in 2.0, while the videos are presented in both 2.0 and 5.1. Both sound very crisp, with excellent impact from Brian Ritchie's acoustic bass guitar. Gordon Gano's distinctive and slightly whiny vocals sound just right. The audio on the videos is full and rich, as one would expect, though the 5.1 track is unaccountably at a much lower volume level than the 2.0 version.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Packaging: clear plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Bonus live performance
Extras Review: The only bonus feature is an additional performance of Kiss Off, on the street in front of a theater before a small but very appreciative crowd. The sound on the handheld camera is marginal, but it's a unique chance to see the band up close and personal. There are play all buttons for the live concert, the music videos and the entire disc, to suit your particular pleasures of the moment.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

An essential disc for fans of the Violent Femmes, this also makes a good introduction to the band and its quirky music.


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