In our weekly MKE Music Rewind, we revisit a notable Milwaukee song that was released before Milwaukee Record became a thing in April 2014.
Decades may pass and tastes may come and go, but the Violent Femmes will forever be linked with Milwaukee. And why not? The folk-punk group was originally “discovered” playing outside the Oriental Theatre in 1981 (by members of The Pretenders, no less). A subsequent singular career splashed around in the national mainstream while still keeping a toe in Milwaukee. Violent Femmes’ 1983 self-titled debut remains an unimpeachable classic, and Why Do Birds Sing? is pretty great, too. The band was and always will be a “Milwaukee band,” even if that band has long since moved away.
Well, most of the band, anyway. Founding drummer Victor DeLorenzo remains, and continues to make music here with his latest group, Nineteen Thirteen. As for the Violent Femmes, the drummer made what appears to be a final split from the band in 2013. But never mind that, because that same year DeLorenzo released a delightfully weird and strangely life-affirming self-titled solo album. It’s a hidden gem of a record, and it contains a doozy of a song in the rollicking “Gonna Wanna”:
Why does “Gonna Wanna” stand out? That’s easy: it’s unlike anything else on Victor DeLorenzo. Amidst a sea of percussion-heavy oddities like “Carry Me,” “Bow,” and “Dr. Um” (the latter featuring Femmes frontman Gordon Gano on vocals) is a rip-roaring, punk-inflected tribute to the good old fashioned power of rock and roll. The song’s self-consciously goofy and on-the-nose chorus says it all:
Gonna rock, gonna rock, gonna roll
Wanna rock, wanna rock, wanna roll
‘Nuff said, right? Maybe not. Scratch the surface and you’ll find much more going on in “Gonna Wanna” than its uptempo beat might suggest. “I’m going to float above this pain,” DeLorenzo sings at one point. “I’m going to float beyond this fame-sucking drain. I’m going to trust my intuition.” Toss in lines about “clean[ing] my soul” and “wash[ing] my hands” of “dirty money,” and suddenly “Gonna Wanna” fits right in with Victor DeLorenzo‘s nervy self-help vibe.
Then there’s the song’s bridge, which is all killer and no filler:
The more you talk the less I hear
Why don’t you tell me?
The more you laugh the less I listen
You just annoy me
It’s an unlikely moment in an already unlikely song, and my favorite 15 seconds on a record I thoroughly enjoy. It’s also a reminder that while the Femmes may be forever imprinted on the history of Milwaukee music, DeLorenzo should hold that distinction, too. He floated above the fame-sucking drain. He trusted his intuition. He rocked, rolled, and remained.