I first heard Savages a couple of years back in 2013 at the release of their debut album “Silence Yourself.” It really took me by surprise. I don’t think I had ever heard an all-girl band rock so hard. Jenny Beth sang with a wailing intensity you rarely hear nowadays in rock music. The production was great and Ayse Hassan’s murky basslines thumped away above groovy danceable drumbeats. My favorite track on the album had to be the closer “Marshal Dear,” a slower, ballad-like track, sporting a great music video and a moody sax-solo near the end.
Leading up to their upcoming album “Adore Life,” the band has released three singles, “The Answer,” “T.I.W.Y.G,” and “Adore.” To be honest I wasn’t a huge fan of “The Answer,” finding it sound a little muddied up and lacking the moodiness that I love so much from this band. “Adore” has a great explosive ending to it, but as a whole the track is a little meandering and doesn’t have a sharp hook to it, like some of their best work. Although I was a little lukewarm on those songs, “T.I.W.Y.G” (or “This Is What You Get”) really stood out to me as bombastic, speedy and immediate. The song holds some great shout-along lyrics and shredding guitar, two things I love to hear from this band. That song is what really got my hyped up for this album.
Finally listening to this project in its entirety, I could pretty comfortably assert that as a whole, “Adore Life” is good, but not as good as the band’s debut. The production is still there; the great instrumental performances are still there. You can still expect to hear screeching noisy guitar parts, groovy basslines, and sometimes-punky-sometimes-dancey drumbeats. The band pretty consistently plays in the style they established with the first album and don’t deviate much from that. If you really dug it then, you’ll probably still like it now. The only catch to this formula is that they don’t really experiment with their sound much or push boundaries on this album- perhaps even less than they did on their debut. This could leave the album feeling a little stale at times even though the instrumentation and production are great.
The album opens up with “The Answer,” which oddly enough is one of the biggest deviations for the band, being significantly more guitar-driven and feeling slightly claustrophobic. The next two tracks, “Evil” and “Sad Person” and pretty great actually and would have fit excellently on their debut album. The hi-hat drumbeat combined with the bassline in “Evil” reminds me of some sort of dark disco from Hell in the best way. Jenny sings, “Don’t try to change- they’ll hurt you, they’ll break you down,” for the hook.
My main gripe with this album really comes in the stretch of tracks 4, 5, 6 and 7. After an energetic introduction to the album these tracks tend to drag on. Not just because of their tempo- “I Need Something New” is actually pretty speedy. Each of these tracks, in my opinion tends to float by without making a huge impact. The instrumentals are great but each of these songs fails to create much of a lasting impression. “Slowing Down The World” by no means is a bad song, and has a great guitar hook to it, but it’s hard to shake the feeling of it being Savages-by-the-numbers by this point of the album. I challenge you to remember what “When In Love” sounds like off the top of your head. Although not bad, these songs end up blending together in a haze and this ends up taking away form the punk spontaneity of the band a bit for me. Jenny’s hooks on songs like “Slowing Down The World and “I Need Something New” come off as uninspired, and although she has a fantastic voice, I began questioning if another singer could have used the instrumental backdrop a bit better.
Nowhere becomes that question more apparent than on “Surrender,” which by far has the coolest instrumental on the album. The bass has some kind of insane distortion effect on it that sounds absolutely wicked. This hi-hat dancebeat plays underneath and guitar chimes away way above creating a soundscape that is absolutely tripped-out in the best way. Listen to what Jenny’s doing over the song though. She tunelessly yells things over most of the song (until the chorus). Imagining all the wicked verses that could have gone over this instrumental grew tiresome. Nonetheless this song is sill a great track and a highlight for the album. “T.I.W.Y.G” comes next and just rocks your socks off. “Mechanics” closes this album off and can’t help but feel like a disappointment, especially compared to the finisher from their last album, “Marshal Dear.”
In the end, this album was a good effort. Nonetheless, it still leaves a lot to be desired. Man, what a great EP “Evil,” “Sad Person,” “Surrender” and “T.I.W.Y.G” would have made. You could even throw “Adore” in there for good measure. As it currently stands though, this album is a little cluttered by samey-samey songs. It would have been nice to hear the band embrace some of the stranger sounds in their catalogue a bit more, like the saxophone from “Marshal Dear” or the crazy timbres from “Surrender.” Hopefully Savages evolve musically as a band and can give us something new to love them for next time!
Savages ‘Adore Life’ out today January 22nd 2016 on Matador. Savages perform April 2 at the Corona Theatre (2490 Notre Dame W). 8 p.m. $25/27.50. Tickets HERE.