The Violent Femmes' punk-pop underground sound gave combative nobodies a voice in the '80s and '90s, thanks to Gordon Gano's playful twist on teen angst and panting sexual frustration. Two decades later, Gano was still the indie-rock artisan when he made his solo debut with Hitting the Ground. Gano's selection of songs were exclusively written for some of his heroes, not to mention some of indie-rock's finest like They Might Be Giants, Frank Black, and Mary Lou Lord. Hitting the Ground is flat-out clever, cool, and cocky. Cymbals and two-tone percussion shimmy and shake on the album title track. PJ Harvey is an uncanny match for Gano, for her wicked vocal stomp and distorted guitar work on this surf-styled number is equally fiery to his own sarcastic rendition. His frenzied punk howl of "Make It Happen" sticks with the winning formula, too. Ex-4 Non Blondes frontwoman Linda Perry carries the lovelorn torch song "So It Goes" beautifully, while John Cale remains unruffled on the piano-driven lounge cut "Don't Pretend." Gano's songwriting on these particular songs hit to the core of what we're all afraid to notice: Life sucks sometimes. He's always been painfully honest, whether he's been funny or crass about it. The funky "Catch 'Em in the Act" is classic Gano, with sexy, self-explanatory lyrics of male sexual adventure. Lou Reed's blues-tinged jams and sleek vocals point a finger at the paternal side of things, but humorously so. More than anything, it seems that Gordon Gano just wants to have fun. He's obviously had a blast with the Violent Femmes, but takes things in a personal direction on Hitting the Ground. What took him so long? That doesn't matter. Hitting the Ground is up to expectation and longtime Femmes fans shouldn't be surprised.
AllMusic Review by MacKenzie Wilson
feat: Cynthia Gayneau
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