Savages: Silence Yourself – album review

Savages – Silence Yourself (Matador)

CD / DL / LP

Out 6th May

Silence yourself is currently streaming in full here.

It’s like the album of the year already. This is not hype. Not press speak. This is just a great album that takes pieces of the past and creates a new future.

Every now and then you get one of these bands or albums that define the moment. For Savages it’s more than just about the great songs, the vision, the idea and the willfulness-  it’s about that extra energy- that belief that art and music can still change lives. The extra emotions that are in their songs can make the world look and sound different.

This is what pushes Savages to the top of the quivering pile. Jehnny Beth’s vocals pick up every emotion and amplifies them with a rare power, beauty and imagination but all the time the songs still have a punk rock edge and a post punk imagination- which is what makes everything so thrilling to listen to.

Sometimes bands like these get lucky and sell millions, sometimes they are catalyst bands who provide a new template for everyone else to follow- history will tell us which one Savages will be.

There is a lot to love here- the sound of the band- big, brave and bold and restlessly creative and with an enticing darkness- the songs are perfectly written, crackling with their thrilling creativity whilst the band’s take on post punk re-examines the period and comes up with new answers and influences and updates them to the NOW. And that’s what’s important here- this not an exercise in retro- this is the future and the future sounds good.

Whilst everyone else was pilfering from the tired and tested rock history of the same narrow band of bands that gets trotted out over and over from the post punk hipster lineage, Savages have been smart enough to look the other way into the darker corners and yet they still had everyone fooled.

One music media person spent a whole evening insisting to me that the band sounded like Jesus And Mary Chain- hoping the band could be corralled back into indie land and was shocked that I thought there may be a touch of Bauhaus to their proceedings.

The media’s fear of so called Goth has been found out here as they trip over themselves to endorse Savages but ignore all those perceived uncool bands like Bauhaus whose genius guitar player Daniel Ash reinvention of the six string is an influence on Gemma Thompson’s fantastic guitar playing now and in her pre Savages band.

There is a bit of that so called Goth business- from Joy Division to Bauhuas here and that’s a good thing because it terrifies the hipsters and also rewrites the rulebook. It’s about time someone recognised that the so called Goth scene was a big part of the post punk history and that it’s great that the attractive darkness and swooping emotional power and sexual rush of the music that has so often been brushed aside by the indie snobs is given a whole new sheen here as Savages reconstruct the past into a brave new future.

And this is key.

This is no past album. This sounds like 2013 and captures the unease and darkness of the current times and somehow personalises them into series of songs that are so well written that you are kicking yourself for not thinking of the idea first. “I wanted to avoid love-song clichés and to twist the imagery of females,” claimed lead vocalist Jehnny Beth, whose real name is Camille Berthomier, and was previously part of French indie rock duo John & Jehn, adding, “We don’t write about love and romance. We write about violence, domestic things and having a masculine view on feminine issues,”

The beauty of the band is that they really are a band with each instrument playing lead like in all the best groups.

Fay Milton’s drums switch from pounding dark side toms to fractured rhythms that you can always dance to- she is really a great drummer whilst Ayse Hassan bass is a revelation- we knew it was great from the live gigs but with the perfect production on the album the sinuous and powerful bass is the spine that runs around the tracks and has that big tough sound we so love and also helps to crank it up to lead sometimes.

This gives plenty of space for that guitar to slash and burn with its unconventional electricity over the top- there is nothing as boring as guitar solos and riffs- this is about great intelligent sounds and control of the fizzling electric into whole new shapes and ideas and compliment the tracks- it’s such a perfect mix of sounds. The final piece in jigsaw is Jehnny’s voice which swoops and soars, stutters and does the full range of sounds as it details the suffocating domestic and the rush of the city- it’s all so perfect.

Savages rise has been swift and it’s caused some fear in some quarters but we have no truck with that kind of thing.

Their first gig was barely a year ago in October 2011 when they came together from the ashes of various other bands. Somehow they arrived fully formed, with the vision already intact, looking sharp and angular and sounding perfect and their album is the culmination of this. We have watched them play all over the country and they deal with their importance with the perfect riposte by dealing out their great music with an otherworldly and fully formed confidence.

They dare to write songs of all shapes and sizes from the sketches of atmosphere that sit their comfortably between the upbeat and powerful rushes like Husbands and the album opener- the driving Shut Up.

They may be the sort of band who are cursed by reviews written by neo academics who write themselves into corners and miss the joy and emotion and emotional abandon in the music but don’t let that put you off.

This is first perfect album of the year.

Savages website is here. They’re also to be found in all the usual places online, such as Facebook, Twitter & Youtube.

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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. Saw them live tonight for the first time. Like the album but classic? 10/10? A band so heavily crafted to the point of contrivance, I don’t see why people are sucking them up like the new messiahs they clearly aren’t. The guitar work hailed in genius terms is tedious with very little shining through, the most notable riffs being the first and only track we were treated to, ‘Husbands’ and ‘She Will’, the rest a barren wash of noise and insignificance. The rhythm section shines but again is crafted with such a fine tooth comb, a nit-nurse would envy its tenacity. The androgynous look in person looks like two female PE teachers and their lovers looking to rock the party with a few swear words and cliches (Another War carries the conviction of Culture Clubs’ attempt at the anti-War theme waaaaaaay back when Joy Division were filed under ‘passe’). I REALLY want to love them and god knows I’ve tried but I just can’t. They aren’t reactionary, they’re crafted in the same way One Direction are but for a different audience. Don’t believe the hype.

  2. Yes yes YES!!!! This is WONDERFUL!!!! What with Flies On You & now this, at last, something to get excited about!

  3. Great review, of an even greater band and LP. Have seen them twice now and both times they excelled. In a world of ‘say nothing, do nothing’ they’re nothing short of a massive boot up the arse for pretty much every other band in the UK just now, as JR has said, sure they take from the past (who the fuck doesn’t??), but mold their sound into their own. Social Queen, above, seems to have a problem grasping any of this, feel sorry for you really SQ, nice bitter person snipe at their looks, sorry, just smacked of jealousy that (and anyway, they look fucking great), and I doubt any music would ever move you in any way. Social queen, social inadequate, wee chink in your armour also with the CC and JD refrences, giving your age away there (can see you at the bar, arms crossed “I’ve seen it all before, yak yak, yawn”). Anyway, back to the music, it’s transfixing, and it draws you in with it’s raw power, have they been preened and picked at, I’ve thought about that but no fucking danger they have, it’s like all great bands, it comes together through lucky timing and what you get is a group of people who have the same ideas, ideals and aesthetic. I’d ask anyone who says contrary to tell me who the dark forces are behind them if you think none of what they’re doing is literally 100% by their own hand? Conspiracy theorists, lets have it and give us all a laugh. Savages are completely making their own way, by their own means. I just hope to fuck they’re game changers in a music scene devoid of any proper emotion and awash with trite ‘authenticy’ and danger. Good luck to them I say, and if you don’t like it well leave it to us who do to laugh at you standing watching from the sidelines pretending not to be moved.

  4. Great review John, and not in an ass licking manner either. Well done.

    One of the many things I admire about Savages is that they unashamedly wear their influences on their sleeves for all to see. I mean, let’s be honest, they couldn’t hide them could they?
    The obvious Siouxsie vocal comparisons are inevitable, yet I agree with John, in that for my money, there’s a lot more of Daniel Ash (circa 1979) in their manic sound than say, JAMC.

    Savages don’t profess or pretend to be groundbreakingly original. They don’t arse about trying to be lyrical geniuses or feign guitar-wank wizardry, they just enjoy the ride and play what they play. They enjoy themselves and they perform a blistering live set to boot.

    Overall, the album is mightily impressive and has a lot of humour in it’s dark side, which I feel many people tend to miss.
    They’re the most exciting, raucous female band on the planet right now (in my opinion) and no other comes close.
    Sure, it’s easy to slate them and the backlash was only a matter of time but hey, big deal. If people don’t ‘get them’, that’s their loss, not Savages. They don’t give a rat’s arse and quite frankly, nor do I.

    Interestingly enough, the only people that I’ve talked to about Savages who don’t seem to like them were other women. Hhmm, I wonder why that might be?
    Toodle Pip x

  5. Bruising, iconic, and scarily good.


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