Savages set list
Savages set list
Savages set list
Savages set list

Electrowerks, London
Oct 11th 2012
Live review

There is always something truly thrilling about the way music can still throw up great bands. After all the decades and the endless moaning trolls with their ‘music was better in my day’ mantra a band can still come along and not only wipe the floor but redesign the tiles while they are at it.

There is much that is shock of the new and also much that is familiar about Savages. They have the dark intensity of Joy Division, the sonic pallor of prime time goth, the brooding noir of the dark and decayed. Some say it it a hybrid between Ian Curtis’s romantic dark side droogs and the strutting genius of early Siouxsie Sioux but to think that would just that would miss the point.

Someone here has done their homework in the band on the dark years of the early eighties, the true post punk innovation of bands like Bauhaus, The Chameleons and a myriad of lesser known so called goth bands like X Mal Deutschland, who they sort of resemble the most. This was a time of real innovation, that pushed the envelope far further than the recognized post punk of the bands featured in Simon Reynolds great book, Rip It Up, which documented the angular and the awkward but swerved the darker and the stranger.

University music and media courses are now full of people getting taught that punk ripped up the rock n roll rule book and the likes of Gang Of Four were the true heirs to this reconstruction of trad rock. Listening back now from the vantage of decades later it’s groups like Bauhaus who sound truly revolutionary with their utilising of dub, feedback and avant garde art school madness and mystery into brilliantly original soundtracks.

It’s not as if Savages are copying this template but there is an air of the sense of gothic space about their music, moments of the dark dub magik mixed in with the spiraling guitar and swooping vocals. There are the semi tribal drums and the powerful and inventive bass playing- all staples of the goth form. All this has been reinvented into a 21st century angst and a whole new template of the band’s own and this is not to say that the band are a pure Goth band. They are creating their own space just with a different and far less cliched palate than their indie fellows.

Under the stark lights of Electrowerks, a new and really cool neo goth club in Islington, the band ooze the spotlight cool of the group that are right there bang smack in the middle the cross wires of Contemporary culture. Their sound is so intense and powerful, a surging and emotional rush that it’s no wonder that they are getting the collective nod and if the hipsters like them please don’t let that put you off.

Savages are just another example of the pleasing darkening of music that is going on at the moment. Groups like the Horrors and Toy are at it as well, avoiding the pastel shades of indie for something darker, more mysterious and with more content. Not that any of these groups sound the same or this is some spurious attempt to create a scene.

Savages are stand alone brilliant and don’t need any scenes.

The band is very much a four piece with Fay Milton pounding the drums in the powerful gothic use of the tom tom avalanche, locking in tightly with Ayse Hanson’s death disco bass lines- she is a great bass player.

They provide a searching bass for the band dynamic of the imaginative guitar filth of the fragmenting beauty of the treated guitar sounds of Gemma Thompson who is the perfect foil to the charismatic Pauline Murray lookalike Jenny Beth’s vocals. Jenny uses her voice as instrument, all whooping and emoting like a startled bird or an opera singer compressed into the dark arts of neo Goth and somehow in all that noise and detail they find space for eachother.

In all the noise and confusion Savages create an atmosphere of dark intensity and gloomy brilliance with songs that really move you.That swirling dub undertow of the best dark side bands and that same sense of space and decay and that same lack of regard for the straight jacket of verse/chorus.

The fact that they managed to appear on Jools Holland and escape his dreaded boogie woogie piano says more about their individualistic music that is impossible to compromise by any outside tinkering than anything.

We’ve said it before and we will say it again, Savages are the best new band in the UK and as their debut single Husbands twangs itself to a climax and ends their set and Beth hangs  on her mic like a rag doll in the maelstrom of sound it’s a defining moment and as band leave the stage without the showbiz of an encore they genuinely look startled at their own brilliance.

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. Just looked at tickets for Electric Ballroom in Feb. £17.50 all in – they’re going to need to step up from just over half an hour to justify that price. Will be interesting to see whether they can make that next step.


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