But, as they say, good things come to those who wait, and this proves to be the case here. I am sure many of you will have heard (or at least heard of) the Savages excellent debut LP “Silence yourself”, with it’s signature dirty early 80s goth sound and driving female vocals (drawing many comparisons to the queen of Goth – Ms Siouxsie Sioux).
I managed to cajole a regular corresponder into writing a review of the LP and he has worked up a gem. Thank you to Tim Barlow for his excellent review of undoubtedly one of the LP’s of the year
Savages – Silence Yourself (Matador Records)
With the recent nomination for the Mercury prize giving sales a deserved bounce, this is the (possibly last) opportunity for a long-overdue review in these pages of the year’s most exciting debut album.
I didn’t think they made them like this anymore. They came on pretty much a weekly basis during the heyday of the music press and the Peel show (mid-70s to late-90s), but this support network no longer exists and the unofficial artists’ stipend that was the dole is under attack like never before from our government of sociopaths who, presumably, don’t want any of that lovely billion-pound revenue that British pop and rock music made for the treasury over the decades. Apart from art schools, the welfare state was the main foundation of our music scene for the last 50 years and the decline of one is going hand-in-hand with that of the other. The rise of the internet has given a platform to an army of self-regarding singer-songwrtiters of debateable talent and no quality control, so it’s a cause for celebration that Savages have arrived virtually fully-formed (like their obvious forebears The Slits), with all their rough edges intact, free of the sanitising influence of Saturday night “talent” shows, which have all but eradicated dysfunction, passion, personality and all the qualities that made for the best rock’n’roll in the first place.
It would be pointless to skirt around the issue, so we’ll get out of the way first the indisputable influence of one Susan Janet Ballion (look it up) on vocalist Jehnny Beth. Not that this is a shameless rip-off, more of an unconscious reflection of having, I suspect, grown up in a house with a good few Banshees records and she’s clearly absorbed the ticks and mannerisms of their singer. When the tuff, chugging guitar riff at the chorus of City’s Full interlocks with the clipped vocals with a familiar “Ho!”, the hairs on the back of your neck rise up in nostalgic appreciation. At the same time, she conveys the intensity of Ian Curtis and the shadow of Joy Division hangs over this record musically, too. I can hear the sounds of Dead Kennedys guitarist East Bay Ray here on a good few occasions, too, and a dash of The Ruts (on Shut Up), even Sonic Youth (on spooky instrumental Dead Nature). There’s nothing wrong with having clearly identifiable influences, as long as you put your own stamp on your art, too, and from the first note you can see they have no problems here. The bullshit detector doesn’t flicker once.
Lyrical themes recur throughout: meek deference to/escape from abusive men, self-loathing, alienation, feeling invisible among the “beautiful” people, meaningless sex (“Get hooked on loving hard/Forcing the slut out”, anyone?) and so on. There’s not much light to pierce the gloom but the stream of great riffs and arrangements bodes really well for the future, so long may their lives continue thus! This is no one-album band so long may the gloom continue.
Following penultimate track Husbands and its neat homage to Patti Smith’s “Horses, Horses, Horses” refrain, finally there is some respite. The very lounge-y Marshall Dear mines a gorgeous smokey Nick Cave/late Gun Club groove which gives Jehnny a chance to show us she can sing and whet our appetites for the next record. As a female rock band, comparisons to the Slits, Au Pairs, Delta 5, Huggy Bear, etc are tempting, but lazy, a bit patronising and ultimately redundant. They may not, barring an outbreak of good taste, win the Mercury, but I’m struggling to think of any other serious contenders for Best New British Rock Band this millenium…
(And I didn’t mention Siouxsie Sioux oncedamndamndamnandbuggerit!)