The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

'Freak Magnet' only repels listeners

Readers of The Cavalier Daily, I have suffered for you. Having never been much of a Violent Femmes fan, I did not know what to expect when I volunteered to review "Freak Magnet," their newest release.

Well, that's 45 minutes of my life that I will never get back.

The best thing I can say about "Freak Magnet" is that it isn't as bad as Hanson. Uninspiring, boring, bland, insipid -- these are just a few ways one could describe this album. Good albums make you think and/or tantalize your emotions, but this album does neither.

While music and movie critics traditionally write over the heads of their audience, I am going to sum up this album in five words, none of which are more than four letters long: It is very, very bad.

Quick Cut
Album: "Freak Magnet"
Artist: Violent Femmes
Freak Magnet
Hollywood is High
Grade: D-

The record opens with "Hollywood is High," a twangy little ditty that reintroduces us to the whiny vocal stylings of Gordon Cano. This song is not that bad, and compared to the album's title track it is a masterpiece. "Freak Magnet," the second song, is one of those poppy, bob your head from side-to-side songs that casual music listeners like and real fans hate.

"Sleepwalkin'" and "Rejoice and Be Happy," however, are songs that have the power to unite all music listeners in hatred. They sound like watered-down Ramones songs, the kind of pseudo-punk that Green Day started out with before they discovered the beauty (and financial success) of catchy choruses.

Related Links
  • Violent Femmes website
  • The underwhelming bliss continues with "Mosh Pit," the only actual rock song on the album. This song is appropriately titled, I must say, because one might enjoy it more after getting knocked silly by an elbow to the skull.

    One positive aspect of this album is it features a variety of genres. "New Generation," for example, is a surf rock song, while "Forbidden" is a Beatles-esque love song. To my knowledge, however, the Fab Four and the Beach Boys never recorded anything this boring.

    The same can be said for Pink Floyd, who obviously were ripped off with "Happiness Is." When the first riffs come in you expect Cano to start singing, "We don't need no education" before a chorus of children kicks in. Instead you just get another boring song.

    One notable trait of this album is that only four of the 15 songs run longer than three minutes. Coincidentally, these four songs are the album's best. "All I Want" is a slow-paced acoustic track, "In the Dark" is reminiscent of the Meatpuppets, and "A Story" is an insomniac's dream. (In other words, it'll knock you out faster than a full bottle of NyQuil.)

    While these three songs (along with the four minute "Happiness Is") are bright spots on the album, they certainly do not deserve much acclaim. Compared to the aptly titled "I'm Bad" and the absolutely blasé "I Danced," these are Grammy-worthy recordings. But that's not saying much.

    Considering the Violent Femmes have released seven records in their 20 years of existence, one would think they would have developed a unique sound, rich with melody and fine in texture. Sadly, this is not the case. The band's performance on "Freak Magnet" displays almost no musical talent and does absolutely nothing for the listener. It sounds like the band was falling asleep as they worked in the studio, and their apathy is contagious.

    Grade: D-