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Monday, February 17, 2014

"Never Tell" by The Violent Femmes

The Violent Femmes will always be known for their classic song about masturbation, "Blister in the Sun", but their first two albums were so much more than that.  Their second album in particular, Hallowed Ground, is a masterpiece of dark rock.  It is also home to their finest song, "Never Tell".  It's a seven minute romp through the human psyche.

The lyrics are fairly cryptic and I'm not entirely sure what it all means, but the subject matter is very dark, disturbing and uncomfortable.  References to "sister" and "father" can be interpreted in the familial sense or in the religious sense.  Constant repetition of certain lines and words helps the listener connect to the narrator's voyage into darkness.  Musically, the instrumentation wavers between calm and quiet to frantic and frenetic, with the bass being the driving force.

As if to mimic a person's descent into psychosis, the song begins slowly but constantly builds.  Things start to quiet down in the middle, but that makes it all the more unsettling.  Just vocals & bass.  It's a sort of calm before the storm.  A brief explosion follows but then leads right back into another quiet section before finally heading into the grand freak-out finale for the final minute of the song.  The bass squiggles out of control and screeches along until it eventually lets up and the listener can finally breathe a sigh of relief.

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