You wouldn’t believe it if you’ve been exposed to Anglo-Franc post-punk outfit Savages, but they’re a band unfamiliar with strife. Not so much personal challenge, but rather running the gauntlet of being an upstart band. Within six months of inception, Savages had secured a support slot with British Sea Power and, more importantly, a sterling reputation.
After nearly three years following the clandestine switch-blade encounter of their debut, ‘Silence Yourself’, Savages have returned with a reinvented agenda, one of positivism in the face of adversity. Philosophical meandering be damned, ‘Adore Life’ is the focused and polished record we thought we'd never hear this early in the quartet’s career. Take the closing phrase of ‘Evil’. The onslaught of strung-out distortion and the tight recoil of snare triplets pushes the peripheries of the band’s intensity but feels calculated; less spontaneous. The same could be said for the literally programmed percussion and George-Miller-in-Berlin snarl of ‘Surrender’.
And yet, despite the record’s combative aesthetic and engineered malice, cuts like ‘Sad Person’ trace the precipice of pop closer than this band had ever dared. The masochistic community call this practice “edging” but for Savages it’s just further exploration of how one translates the human spirit through the avenue of noise. Just as familiar melodies start to form, the track retreats into a phantom flurry of feedback. 'Adore Life' is best thought of as a struggle on a knife’s edge between the purposefully tempestuous and a band reacting on instinct.
So, at this point, we have to talk about Jenny Beth, the orchestrator and emotional proprietor of ‘Adore Life’. Mirroring the way the hardcore community needed Keith Morris and Black Flag back in 1979, the lineage of UK punk music has led to the Beth. Her commanding gravitas is laced with no artifice on record or in a live setting. Her lyrical versatility both destroys perception and create feeling like acid rain on limestone, crooning over disinterest, unrequited feeling and betrayal.
The minimalist vibrancy is facilitated by consistently unique and swampy basslines, visceral drumming, especially on the raucous ‘I Need Something New’, and Jenny Beth helming the soul of the record. What stops the musicality of ‘Adore Life’ from being Savages at their deftest is the tiresome Bernard Sumner guitar lines. A trope we hoped would have diffused along the way of the recording process, especially considering the juggernaut HEALTH riffs of the album’s first single, ‘The Answer’.
In the same way Talking Heads’ ‘The Overload’ was a musical sketch of what David Byrne thought post-punk was meant to sound like, the record’s closer, ‘The Mechanic’, is what we as listeners and fans believed ‘Adore Life’ was likely to turn out sounding following Savages’ Bo Ningen collaboration - sparse and desolate rather than the sometimes compensated croons of the converted cynic.
‘Adore Life’ sacrifices intensity for heart and with some exploration into the use of space and silence, it could be their perfect album. After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Words: Will Butler
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