Savages : photo Katie Clare
Savages : Tokyo : live review
Savages : photo Katie Clare


Astro Hall, Harajuku Tokyo

Monday June 29th 2013

live review


Not two years since their conception it seems from the get go Savages were placed directly in our eye line, no floating around on the peripherals of our musical mists nor any creative fumblings. Their photogenic selves with their artisan post punk musings, violent tinted poetry, slick slogans and bags of charismatic rebellion all stylishly presented were being heralded everywhere – loudly.

The age of innocence has long since passed:  it is hard not to feel suspicious:  it is hard to believe this is not contrived, devised, dressed in black and sent out to fill a gap in the market.  However ‘Silence Yourself’ without a doubt is an imperious, astute and intensely self-possessed debut album – an 11 track post punk manifesto modified to mirror weighty topics of the day, while derivative in parts it’s also immensely exciting, its depth demands play after play, for which rich rewards are abundant as subtle nuances are brought to light and weaker tracks show their muscles.

I feel conflicted.

The capacious confidence bleeding out of the speakers is thundering, riveting and while the foundations of Savages lyrically is at times unsympathetic, antagonistic, inimical even I’m instantly surprised how accessible the sound is – live it is warmer and more defined than via headphones. Each band member is contributing in equal intensity, not only in a variety of musical elements but delivering a differing physicality to the experience.

Aysse Hassan’s two step bounce is almost ever present as her bass throws out lusciously melodic pulsating, occasionally deep and funky tones, on the opposite side of the stage – head down for great swaths of time oscillating slightly Gemma Thompson’s guitar buzz cuts the air time and time again ripping at echo’s and slashing at feedback. The sparkling, palpitating cadenced detonations from Faye Milton are spliced with flashes of her huge grin – she looks like someone getting a huge rush and it comes through in her rhythms. Like a matador, Jehnny Beth prowls the stage occasional head and arm movements are fiercely dramatic her frame however remains composed, defiant and stealth. There are undulations in her mercurial vocals fuelled by a palpable tension that is powerfully released, each change in volume and style redefines the atmosphere around her: darkly sensual, violent flawed, impenetrable and impenitent. As a live group there is no denying the impact of their dynamism.

The show is taking place, directly after Fuji Rock- the band having played the White Stage on Sunday afternoon. At Harajuku’s Astro Hall a well laid out, dark and an intimate venue with a capacity of 500 is a great place to enjoy a band that demands your full attention. The set list is as it’s been for some while and it works well building and exploding in waves. ‘Shut Up’, ‘Give Me a Gun’, ‘No Face’ and ‘She Will’ being particularly well executed and very well received.

Certain combinations of sound and stage movements, especially, when Savages turn up the speed and volume: trigger flashes in my mind; Voodoo Queens, Jack Off Jill, Daisy Chainsaw, Hole even. The overt feedback, frenzied guitar, and vocal arrangements from stoic to guttural even the issue based, in your face, statement lyrics – throw these past bands to the forefront of my memory. Hell yes I know music writers just can’t help but compare and classify but originality is not cavernous and it is not about lazy writing, it is where the music took me – it made me want to jump about too, throw my arms in the air and sing myself horse. I hope the Savages decide to investigate further the visceral aspects of their sound; it’s certainly infectious and liberating. The slick aesthetic I’d been dubious about, hung up on even, was not in the room there was just the music and it was not inscrutable, not too cool or wearily profound because I wasn’t analysing it and I wasn’t made to feel like I had too either – I could just enjoying the music for itself – its passion, energy and velocity.

Conflict resolved.

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