120 Reasons To Live: Violent Femmes

Nothing did more to further the cause of Alternative Nation-building than 120 Minutes, MTV’s Sunday-night video showcase of non-mainstream acts. For nearly two decades, the program spanned musical eras from ’80s college rock to ’00s indie, with grunge, Britpop, punk, industrial, electronica and more in between. MAGNET raids the vaults to resurrect our 120 favorite and unjustly forgotten videos from the show’s classic era.

#93: Violent Femmes “American Music”

That the Violent Femmes’ career trajectory is generally regarded as a long, slow downward arc is sad and unfortunate, yet pretty much fair. 1983 debut Violent Femmes was everybody’s adolescence; it was The Catcher In The Rye. But just because you hit your peak early doesn’t mean there’s no life after a hot-shit debut. The Strokes and Interpol know it, too, and there’s eventually no way you’re not going to end up playing casinos and Houses Of Blues, as the Femmes did for their last decade or so. (The band broke up not long after bassist Brian Ritchie filed a lawsuit against frontman Gordon Gano seeking music ownership and royalties; Gano licensed “Blister In The Sun” to Wendy’s in 2007.) 1991’s Why Do Birds Sing? wasn’t exactly a gem—it’s telling that one of the album’s best tracks is a Culture Club cover—but its single, “American Music,” proved the Femmes were still capable of smartass greatness.