Two years ago, yours truly wrote a very favourable review of Savages’ Silence Yourself (QRO review). Despite sounding rushed, imperfect, voluble and somehow shallow at times, that record was valuable for guitar music still had a way out in this time of machines and impersonality. And even though I got over it kinda quickly, I still recommend it to anyone willing to listen to it.
Fast-forward to late 2015 and news that finally, the follow up is about to be released. The anticipation is palpable, not only within the legions of fans the quartet has around the globe, but also from those who try to analyse in a balanced way (mental onanism is ever-present, so it should be carefully rejected).
The title track “Adore” was a total declaration of a new direction in the band when it was revealed in early January 2016, with new-found courage to (as a friend relayed a quote while listening to it) “Scream right on your face, while in their first record they seemed to shout from a stage or way further.” Also, “Adore” encapsulates the doubts many of us have about the limits of love, greed, lust and many other subjects. Singer Jehnny Beth leaves her most aggressive persona behind to always sing in a close-up way, while her bandmates also appear right in front of you (if you watch the video, that is.)
Somebody even pointed out “Adore” was somehow inspired by the Paris attacks in November 13th. You all know Beth and her boyfriend and producer of this record, Johnny Hostile, are French and that they are friends with Josh Homme and Eagles of Death Metal. It wouldn’t be the first time a catastrophe like that inspires artist, but at the time of writing this is just pure speculation.
The record starts with “The Answer”, premiered in late October 2015, which was the first warning of a change in sound and composition. It’s a strong track but feels way deeper than its counterparts in Silence Yourself. Beth exploits way more her distinctive English pronunciation and her vocal range, whereas the rest of the band sound more compact, more concrete, even more secure of what they can do, if that’s possible.
The other defining moment is the final song, “Mechanics”, an atmospheric and tense lament about the mixed feelings – when we fall in love – of insecurity about how feelings should be managed when you’re adapting to your loved one, but also the confidence that love gives to a person and how things look different and possible when we’re with the one.
These tracks and many others like “Sad Person”, seem to have love, not only as a healing remedy but also as “…a disease, the strongest addiction I know,” which suggest that vulnerability is an ingredient that gained prominence.
Sonically, you will hear echoes of their first record, traits, rhythms, sounds and noises that will connect you, even if for a bit, with previous works, such as guitarist Gemma Thompson’s use of noise on “Slowing Down the World”, which features a climax where Beth screams her heart out from the distance in the middle of the track. The interesting thing, though, is that they don’t need to go over the top, as they use all their knowledge in a way where all elements of a song add up.
If Siouxsie and the Banshees, Wire, The Cure or Joy Division were clear influences before, here PJ Harvey, Swans, Bo Ningen (QRO photos together) or The Gun Club are present, but apart from displaying their personality, Savages are more skilful now, so what you’ll hear is just an echo of those influences.
This is not an immediate record, this is not the bomb Silence Yourself was in its moment, you may need to listen to it two or three times to fully see the whole picture of who Savages are now, but as a whole, this also contains energy, love, urgency, pain, fear, only with the added touch of subtlety and a certain restraint.
A clear step forward.