Saturday, February 2, 2013

#459: Violent Femmes-Add It Up (Top 500 Modern Rock Songs Of All Time)

(Top Modern Rock Songs Of All Time)
Song: "Add It Up"
Artist: Violent Femmes
Release Date: April, 1983
From the Album: Violent Femmes (1983)

Quick Take: Lead singer Gordon Gano demonstrated an uncanny knack for clever, incessantly catchy lyrics on the Violent Femmes' self-titled 1982 debut, an early landmark of American alternative rock. "Add It Up" benefited greatly from that gift, and eventually became the title track of the group's greatest-hits compilation. It finds Gano in the yearning, hard-luck misfit role that dominated the album, but it's even darker than usual, with its frank, edgy sexuality and intimations of gun violence. Opening with a free-form a cappella passage, the song quickly becomes a driving rocker, and Gano steadily escalates his sexual longings ("why can't I get just one...") from "kiss" to "screw" to "fuck." Even the first scenario is far from romantic -- "I look at your pants and I need a kiss," Gano sings, giving the lie to the assumption that innocence and inexperience go hand in hand. He sings the following chorus with such snarling abandon that, in spite of the obvious geekiness of his persona, there's also an unsettling sense of menace. Next follows a quieter, speak-sung section, which includes a verse about a frustrated young man similar to Gano, but who "went downtown and he bought him a gun"; he serves as sort of a dark-side alter ego whose angst boils over, but Gano wants no part of him: "you know you got my sympathy/but don't shoot, shoot, shoot that thing at me." Keep in mind, too, that this was recorded in 1982, over 15 years before Columbine -- evidence that misfit rage had long been something of a powder keg in American high schools. The alternative, though, is far from reassuring; the chorus contains an intimation that the singer's own rage may be turned suicidally inward -- "the day is in my sights/when I'll take a bow/and say good night." All of this makes "Add It Up" probably the darkest song on the album, and perhaps even in the group's catalog.
Courtesy: Steve Huey (

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