Words by TJ Kliebhan
Since about halfway through 2015, music fans seemed to be gearing up for 2016 with promises of releases from major artists such as Radiohead, Animal Collective, and Kanye West. London post-punk outfit Savages was not going to get a level of hype that high from the mainstream crowd, but their new release, Adore Life, was sure to be under the microscope for fans of post-punk, and the band’s full-length debut that came in 2013, which was one of my favorite releases that year.
Savages heavily rely on building rhythm and slowly making the atmosphere around that rhythm as noisy and chaotic as possible. Jehnny Beth injects a heavy dose of conviction and creates a sense of rapidly approaching urgency into her vocal shouts that paired brilliantly on their first record. This is what makes her such as strong live performer as well – she doesn’t sound polished. Beth’s pageantry is ostentatious and strives for imperfections which is an apt reflection of the attitude behind the music the band creates. “Adore” is a track off this new record that executes this idea brilliantly.
On most of the other tracks on this record, the vocal performances just feel a bit flat though. Beth sounds more restrained and it seemed like the band was going for an overall ‘cleaner’ sound in the vein of more traditional post-punk acts like Interpol or Television. The last track “Mechanics” is a slower track that is guilty of this. This instrumental finds Beth seemingly unsure of how to fit her anger and aggression into the track’s more dainty ethereal landscape. Savages truly do possess the musicianship to pull off a sound like that, but on Adore Life, they seem caught between their two styles.
This record is the strongest when the band sounds the most unhinged. “I Need Something New” is a fantastic track because it allows Beth’s personality and swagger to shine through while the band creates noisy reverb. “When in Love” features a great riff from Gemma Thompson and a thick driving bass from Ayse Hassan. It would have been nice to hear these two exchange back and forth a bit more on Adore Life because they can create some haunting grooves together.
Most of these tracks either lack a quality hook or just don’t lead the listener anywhere different that where they started. Adore Life features two identities – Savages want to fall somewhere between Perfect Pussy and Television, but they fall too far on one side of the spectrum rather than at a happy medium that suits the band’s skills. It seems like Savages were trying to challenge themselves on this record and come out with something a bit different from their debut. For that they should be commended, but it came at the expense of the band’s strengths.
© January 22nd, 2016
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