THOSE ANGRY, angst-y adolescents, the Violent Femmes, have grown up some in between records. On their third and most accomplished album, "The Blind Leading the Naked," they've stopped complaining about themselves, having noticed a wider world of politics, protest and religion. Their sound has grown as well, courtesy of new producer, Talking Head Jerry Harrison.
This is not to say they've lost their raw vitality: The new polish is tempered with homemade instruments and the usual aggressive instrumental attack. Singer/songwriter Gordon Gano is still whiny and petulant at times, but sings out more confidently than before.
The Milwaukee-bred Femmes process a handful of heartland styles -- jugband, gospel, hootenanny, New Orleans jazz (augmented by the Horns of Dilemma, featuring Harrison, percussionist Steve Scales and guitarist Fred Frith). The album is framed by two 30-second songs, opening with the concisely condemnatory "Old Mother Reagan" and closing on the wistful personal note of "Two People." In between are the good-timey gospel "Faith,"; the chilling "Candlelight Song" flavored with Arabic percussion; and a martial "Children of the Revolution," a danceable homage to Marc Bolan that complements their newly heightened consciousness.
THE VIOLENT FEMMES -- "The Blind Leading the Naked" (Slash 9 25340-1); appearing Friday at Lisner Auditorium.