Thank whatever mystical force bestowed us with Savages, because they can’t seem to get a lot wrong. Their first album, Silence Yourself, came with the band already a tightly knit unit, a manifesto and the powerful statements of Jehnny Beth, such as ‘I Am Here’ and ‘Husbands’, which came wrapped up in the pressure and release of post-punk propulsion. Even more so on Adore Life, the band embrace the genre they can now assume position as flag-bearers of, but also dip into Krautrock, post-rock and even some U2-sized anthemic rock. If you thought Jehnny Beth delivered enough statements on Silence Yourself, there’s even more on Adore Life, mostly involving love and everything that comes with it. Savages don’t see love as something to trust, they indulge in it because they can, even they know what can happen to it. The album is stupidly well put together and rarely takes a huge nosedive in quality, mostly because Savages won’t always throw another slow burning post-punk at the listener, one after the other, but surprise at every turn.
Take ‘Adore’, the centrepiece which was first debuted live around this time last year, like many of the tracks on Adore Life. But instead of coming out of the gate like the tightly-coiled spring that they can be, it gently introduced itself with Ayşe Hassan’s bass which usually arrives hyper-compressed and driving forward, but takes a more neutral tone to let Jehnny Beth take centre stage. Beth’s vocals are as good as they’ve ever been and her lyrics are questioning and declaring at the same time, trading ‘It is human to adore life?’ with a simple line like ‘I Adore Life’, which is repeated with increasing volume towards the end as Gemma Thompson’s post-rock swirls around and Fay Milton’s drumming somehow manages to keep the tempo rising up at this steady, monolithic pace. Where Savages have always been a band that excel at their instrumentation, it is very easy on Adore Life to pick a gem of a moment from each member: Fay Milton on ‘I Need Something New’, Ayşe Hassan on ‘T.I.W.Y.G’ or ‘The Answer’ (It’s very hard to pick Hassan’s best moment, she just sprinkles gold on every track), Gemma Thompson on ‘Evil’ and Beth’s lone vocals on ‘Mechanics’, where she sings ‘When I’m with you / I want to do all the things I’ve never done’ and ‘Our love will stand the test of time’, but there’s almost a denial in her voice, as if she’s trying to convince herself. There’s never the full commitment that everything will be ok, there’s a bleak worry at the back of Beth’s mind that it will all fall apart.
The songs where Savages all have a key moment is where they shine the best though. ‘I Need Something New’ is pure post-punk, Thompson’s guitar taking a backseat to the rhythm section (which pretty much rules the entire album) into a more ambient tone as Beth’s vocals become more deranged as she shrieks ‘I need something new’ on the chorus and Milton’s drumming is huge – it’s sort of ‘one of the best drummers around right now’ huge. The band excel at quiet and loud, from the more ambient tracks and sections to the ones which are more vicious, such as ‘The Answer’, which keeps up its pummelling rhythm for three and a half minutes, or ‘T.I.W.Y.G’, which is where Thompson can finally break out from the background on the Sonic-Youth-esque chorus. She’s got some stiff competition with Hassan, but you could say that for most tracks. It always feel like Savages are encouraging each other to top each other, and it’s beautiful to hear a band like that. It can be hard to sing about love simply without retreading over where someone else has been before in music, but with the right amount of restraint and not overloading on the information, Beth’s lyrics come across as genuine and emotional and there’s enough variation to make this not a ‘love’ album. Something like ‘Evil’, where Beth sings ‘Evil’s on the other side / I will never let you down’ is mysterious enough to have different interpretations aside from her more direct lyrics.
We can’t sing Adore Life‘s praises enough really. It’s a far cry from the difficult second album and never retreads the ground that Savages mostly covered on their debut. Even without a manifesto, Adore Life‘s messages on love and life are clear enough, but there’s enough ambiguity to give Beth’s perspective some alternative viewpoints and ideas. Savages are important to post-punk and music in general, because what they’re making is vital and most importantly – it’s good and well played. The members are masters in their own corner, and then when they come together it makes something really special. Where the band will go from here is very, very exciting.
Funnel Recommends: Adore / I Need Something New / T.I.W.Y.G