In Woody Allen movies, no matter how disparate the cast, the actors all adopt the director’s lovable stammer. Likewise, for all their variety, the guests Violent Femmes frontman Gordon assembled for his collaborative first solo album — including They Might Be Giants, Frank Black, Linda Perry, Martha Wainwright, Lou Reed and John Cale — all deploy Gano’s unmistakable cadence. On Hitting the Ground, P.J. Harvey sounds more Gano than he does. Harvey attacks the title track with a howling sting, and the results are stunning. Mary Lou Lord commandeers the lilting “Oh Wonder,” They Might Be Giants check in with “Darling Allison,” which comes across as a lost classic from the 1950s, and Lou Reed’s teasing deadpan on “Catch ‘Em in the Act” is a reminder of how much influence he has had on Gano. The only weak spots here are John Cale’s out of place “Don’t Pretend” and Frank Black’s take on “Run,” which is too rabid and disturbs the mood of the album. Gano sings three songs on Hitting the Ground — “Make It Happen,” which has all the fire of early Violent Femmes; “It’s Money,” a charming duet with Martha Wainwright; and a reprise of “Hitting the Ground,” returning Harvey’s favor with his own pouncing version of the song while she accompanies him on guitar. Gano is one of the last great frontmen around. Hitting the Ground proves he’s a also a formidable director.
See also: Violent Femmes