This Savages article was written by Ian Bourne, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Michael Liggins. Header photo by Pari Dukovic.
The second album from Savages shows confident evolution from 2013’s ‘Silence Yourself’. Their debut jammed ideas together with an angry, ascetic urgency. It was impressive, but the new songs on ‘Adore Life’ are more multi-dimensional and memorable than the old. Love rather than alienation is the theme.
The album is packed full of rounded, coherent compositions. A highlight is ninth track ‘T.I.W.Y.G.’, standing for the memorable line “This is what you get when you mess with love”. The explosive ‘T.I.W.Y.G.’ sticks in the mind, making it sure to become a live favourite. As it peaks, it powers along at a frenetic pace like a Motörhead tune.
Opener and single ‘The Answer’ is another standout. “If you don’t love me you don’t love anybody,” sings Jehnny Beth. She used to talk about problems, now she has solutions. “Love is the answer, I’ll go insane, Love is the answer, wish me luck.” Gemma Thompson on guitar and Fay Milton on drums start in a punk vein; a repetitive riff and propulsive drumming. They pull off a classy key change to accompany Beth’s line about going insane. Thompson adds a post-punk guitar motif half way through, before a false ending and pounding finale.
The second single ‘Adore’ is an atmospheric mini-epic. Thompson’s guitar buzzes like angry wasps and drops fractured echoing notes like tears into a puddle. It twice slowly builds into a briefly anthemic hook: “Maybe I will die, maybe tomorrow, so I need to say, I adore life.” Beth quietly repeats those three words, “I adore life”, over writhing bass, intense drums and gathering guitar chords that halt, start again quietly, speed up loudly and finally stop dead in an abruptly satisfying way.
Savages have an unmistakable sound of their own but, within that, ‘Adore Live’ shows plenty of variety. ‘Evil’ has a reverbing guitar riff you can hum while Ayse Hassan on bass picks out a boppy beat. ‘Sad Person’ builds from a great bass workout into a guitar break, while the lyrics flirt with sadomasochistic psychology. ‘Slowing Down The World’ starts like the soundtrack from a war film, then gets into a reggae-tinged groove.
‘I Need Something New’ demonstrates how Savages know how to build, deconstruct and finish songs. It starts with just Beth’s intoned vocal, adding primal rhythm and shards of guitar. At one point, just bass and voice are left. Taking elements out of a song is sometimes more powerful than adding more in. Hassan’s bass is reminiscent of Jean-Jacques Burnel from The Stranglers.
Her bass carries the tune in ‘Surrender’, while the guitar is used for post-punk atmospherics until it bursts into riffing over rat-a-tat drums. ‘When In Love’ is also unashamedly influenced by ‘80s post-punk, as Beth chides “Oh I hate your taste in music” and threatens the consequences of obsessive love: “I might be knocking at your door.” The last track, ‘Mechanics’, is a slow and poetic sign-off off to a fine album.
‘Adore Life’ is out now via Matador.