Thursday, 2 May 2013

Savages - Silence Yourself


Savages' intense and destructive music is more like Metal Box period Public Image Limited than the course Siouxsie and the Banshees that are often name dropped. It's Johnny Rotten's gauging vocal style that influences Savages front women Jehnny Beth, real name Camille Berthomier. Same can be said for Ayse Hassan's stark bass creations influenced from PiL legend Jah Wobble. It's a challenge for bands that carry a direct influence from a past generation in to today's music - this usually begs for comparisons and identity theft from past artists. The American wave of proto-punk (Patti Smith, The Stooges, and The Velvet Underground,) and Britain’s dark and ethereal post-punk artists are heavy influences on Savages sound and image. Joy Division, Echo and The Bunnymen, Magazine, Public Image Limited and of course Siouxsie and the Banshees are just some of Savages estranged parents. They take their name from such books as Lord of The Flies and Catcher in the Rye, the savage instinct when left with impending doom.

When performing live Savages are resilient in post-punk effects. The darkness and masculinity of their live performances are more than the ideals of feminism or a stand against twee, it's a mark of resentment to a modern day era without Goth like presence and obtuse music. It's a script, an actual performance rather than playing a few numbers. They haven’t been pressured by a record label or formed through men in suits; Savages are the twisted imaginations of post-punk. Album opener "Shut Up" speaks of an unrelenting personal fight, Beth sings: "I'm the one who truly saw your soul." Dark lyricism and first person observations make up a big chunk of Silence Yourself. This blunt instrumentation has almost been absent in music for 30 years and Savages have suddenly entered the scene to pump energy in to the pensioners that still nostalgically rock our sound systems.

Pre-release single "I Am Here" rightfully makes an appearance on Silence Yourself. This is where we hear that delayed, slow vocal and oppressive instrumentation. It's hard to turn Savages down because the sound they're creating is just invigorating worthy of loudness. Thompson's guitar borders noise rock at times, before reverting back to the ethereal dream pop styles of Will Sergeant. Towards the end of "I Am Here", Beth enters the repetition stage of punk rock's final third, repeating the song title over and over creating a cloud of noise. The repetition factor really comes in to play on Silence Yourself. Thompson's guitar is always shrieking, shredding or soothing, yet Hassan's bass sounds almost percussionist. Take "Strife", an energetic hard rock track with power chords reminiscent of Black Sabbath's Paranoid. Beth sings with a shard of innocence: "How come I've been doing things with you, I would never tell my mum," in a murky manner - opening up the door for more tenebrous lyricism to come. "Strife" closes with more guitar screeches and guitar ambience, leading in to the fifth track "Waiting for a Sign". This track is like something out of The Jesus & Mary Chain's Darklands, if drummer Bobby Gillespie stayed with them. Savages sound like Closer period Joy Division without the synthesizers. This is a bleak and almost depressing song that reminds me of "The Eternal".

Silence Yourself wouldn't be complete without the integral instrumental "Dead Nature". Every album has one, like Radiohead's "Treefingers" on Kid A. The concept of darkness and unhappiness works on Silence Yourself as Kid A's gloomy "Treefingers" does on Kid A. There is that sense that Savages are plummeting in to the unknown with their almost anarchist sound and lyrical passages. Beth's lyricism is like poetry; it reads well on paper but also captures the essence of song. Take the blood gusting "She Will", Beth sings: "She will forget her pain, she will come back again. Got hooked on loving hard, forcing the slut out!" Such abstract lyrics are meant for powerful post-punk. "Hit Me" is another one of these vigorous Fugazi-esque tracks with incredibly ghastly lyrics: "I took a beating today and that was the best I ever had." It's a song that references a documentary about porn actress Belladonna, who says the exact above quote. Beth takes the portrayal of women to be victims and turns it upside down in a masculine way with the callous punk instrumentation. She twists the story, showing admiration for Belladonna's role, but also showing menace to the general male consensus' portrayal of women.

Savages are far from twee and you certainly won't see them on stage wearing pink dresses. This being said, Savages aren’t exactly feminist or would describe themselves under that bracket. It's almost as if feminism has become a philosophy rather than a movement. Savages acknowledge this and see only the basic raw ingredients of feminism to go by. Let's put it this way, don't call them a girl band. This perpetual anger is heard in the standout single "Husbands". Beth sings a very construed vocal along the lines of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs Karen O and PJ Harvey. You can almost hear Patti Smith's "Horses" as Beth repeats the track title over and over. The two minute 50 second track seems long enough when put alongside the other tracks, however the incredibly twisted noise rock shredding performed by Thompson kills time fast, as does the structural breakdown where Beth sings: "My house, my bed, my husbands." The sceptical lyricism is backed by one of the best post-punk instrumentals. Hassan's blunt bass playing starts the track with the simple bass drum smashing of drummer Fay Milton. Thompson then takes control with a skilful guitar riff, with Milton's excessive cymbal smashing. Human character and Ayn Raynd's individualism  philosophy at its best.

What's striking about Silence Yourself is the closer "Dear Marshall" - the smooth, lounge-like track that features Beth's piano composition and a clarinet towards the end. This track decides the fate of Savages debut album, because "Dear Marshall" is their mission statement. it includes the album title via lyrics and also tells the story of the album's side note seen on the cover. It's a simple message that can be summed up by listening to the first track, "Shut Up" - the title says it all. Silence Yourself is that beckoning album you can use to persuade your friends to eye up and seize the opportunity to witness and experience a band living up to their full potential as artists. Each member plays an individual role on Silence Yourself, the bass / drums are envisioning powerful and mastered ingeniously by The XX mixer Rodaidh McDonald. He knows how to get the best ethereal sound out of a band and he doesn't fail here. Tracks like "Husbands" and "City's Full" are bound to get attention. The latter being one of my favourite tracks of 2013 with it's heavy distortion and erratic structure. They're both of single quality, replicating the exaggerate sound of 80s punk. "No Face" and "Strife" are somewhat weak links on a contingent album. Savages are making headlines as they should be. It's been a while since a band of this nature has graced our boring music scene. They sound fresh even though the formation was respectfully down to music of the 70s / 80s. Thompson's guitar riffs do not disappoint and Beth's poetic lyricism will leave a mark for years, if not decades. Savages have truly released an astounding debut worthy of worldwide recognition. Their hard work has paid off and fortunately the future is in their hands thanks to the carefully picked closer "Dear Marshall".
~Eddie

9.0

1 comment:

  1. Great review,I can only agree with this review since I've seen them live at the sold out Electric ballroom,Camden earlier this year, they were fantastic,My per-ordered vinyl album is due, Cant wait.Their Great live, so i expect this 1st album would be a bit special.I can see them having a cult following.I like my band a bit different from the Mainstream.

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