Song Of The Day 1/31/2016: Brian Ritchie – “Religion Ruined My Life”

It's Sunday and I'm dazzled by the tranquilizing effect of 24 hours of cold medication, so to quote Tom Waits, I feel as though we should move right into the religious material. Brian Ritchie is the bassist for the Violent Femmes, who I literally just now found out are releasing their first album in 15 years in March. For those of you bearing smartwatches, the Violent Femmes' first album was a key component of many of your parents' high school experiences. Lead singer Gordon Gano displaced sexual tension, which of course is in high supply during your teenage years, into a constantly poking mass of bouncing, agitable revenge, ravaging through his Napoleon complex like a bodiless pair of Doc Martens trampling through streets shadowed by high-rises made out of butter. Ritchie played bass. They were from Milwaukee.

"Religion Ruined my Life" was from Ritchie's 1990 solo album I See a Noise, one of the first catalog albums I liberated from the back shelves of KAOS when I got there to lionize my own mediocrity via radio in 1994. This song grabbed my attention because the subject of adolescences shaped by codes of supernatural explanations fascinated me. Ritchie's song was even more interesting because we'd heard all those rumors that the Femmes were a "Christian band," despite their first album pretty much entirely being about not getting laid. As is usually the case when parsing out celebrity gossip, the truth's a bit less black-and-white: Gano identified as an active Christian but the others in the band did not. And there isn't really anything un-Christian in doing explicit battle with your hormones, 'cause you can't exactly sue the manufacturer, can you?

Anyway. Ritchie's song is a parody of the godawful country-gospel fusion music that proliferated on shows like The PTL Club (which I watched for amusement as a teenager), offering a clear-headed personal testimony that should make the ghost of Christopher Hitchens a very proud, though still non-existent, specter.

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