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.