Release Date: Sep 14, 2010
Record label: French Kiss
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
With its fifth album, Root for Ruin, the art rock outfit continues with the sound that made Let’s Stay Friends such a refreshing change for the band, refining its angular sound with pop polish. This slower, more melodic approach really shines on “Let’s Get Out of Here,” a laid-back, Pixies-influenced track that almost casually rises and falls, showing off the band's ability to take a chord progression and mine it for all its worth, coaxing out a breezy verse and an incredibly catchy hook that sound like they could be lost tracks from Doolittle. This more thoughtful approach also comes through on faster tracks like “Dirty Knails” and “Excess Energies,” providing a look at a Les Savy Fav who are able to be kinetic without being frenetic, showing that they can still cut loose without losing control of the song.
In their more than dozen years of existence, Les Savy Fav have gained a reputation as an exhilaratingly wild live act. While the band is known for working up a sweat-drenched crowd chaos, though, their career trajectory has been one of a band focused on truly honing their hard-charging craft. LSF's last full-length, 2007's Let's Stay Friends, represented the full realization of their sound, with exacting, catchy-as-hell songs that possessed the neck-snapping kinetic energy that was found in rougher form on previous records.
A healthy degree of turbulence in the indie-punk gene pool. As much as we music journalists love to get the jump on you by rating and reviewing everything we can, and presenting you with our ‘expert analysis’ before you’ve even had the chance to buy (that’s BUY) the product in question, sometimes circumstances overtake these efforts. Les Savy Fav pushed the release of this, their fifth album, forward almost six weeks as a result to the, frankly, inevitable internet leaks, so maybe you already have your shiny copy.
Les Savy Fav's live shows, wherein lead singer Tim Harrington abandons dignity and good taste for maximum entertainment potential, have become their calling card. It's impossible to discuss the band without bringing their live act up, and it's hard to listen to them without searching for recorded hints of that madness. Les Savy Fav's best recordings invoke the same riotous, sloppy energy in spades, something that Root for Ruin manages to do, even while sounding just a little bit perfunctory.
Les Savy Fav’s pseudo-comeback in 2007 via Let’s Stay Friends was one of the more fortunate of the last decade. Les Savy Fav were always ahead of the curve, doing danceable punk years before the Rapture did it, and mixing art-punk with classic rock sloganeering when the Hold Steady were still lifting and pulling. They nearly broke up after 2001’s Go Forth, but the band kept together and recorded Let’s Stay Friends, which brought with it increasingly packed club tours and bizarre Pitchfork Festival appearances (including the one in which frontman Tim Harrington was cutting hair in the crowd).
Even as they creep closer to the mainstream (or as the mainstream creeps closer to them), Les Savy Fav make it clear that they haven’t jettisoned bluster in search of mass appeal. As brash as ever, Root For Ruin finds the NYC band in a particularly lascivious mood. Les Savy Fav exercise their libidos, which is a good thing, frankly, slipping sex into the too often neutered indie rock conversation.
For a lot of people, Les Savy Fav started with 2007’s sprawling, bible-referencing, history-buff Let’s Stay Friends. The album took the snarled post-hardcore jaggedness of the band’s earlier work and married it rather impeccably with some bouncy disco rhythms and testosterone-ignited pop punk. Songs made it into prime time commercials, Raging in the Plague Age made it into Grand Theft Auto 4, and Tim Harrington became something of an indie comedy icon.
Thanks to the now notorious antics of singer Tim Harrington, Les Savy Fav’s live show has earned a reputation for being wildly chaotic. On record, though, Les Savy Fav is a different beast altogether. They’ve spent their discography working, slowly but surely, to a controlled, tight sound. This constant honing reached its peak on 2007’s Let’s Stay Friends.
“Workman-like” might be a strange thing to call the music of a group of Brooklyn art-punks, but the long-running Les Savy Fav have its sound down to a spazzy-but-precise science. High-energy rhythms, a touch of time-signature tom-foolery and splatters of shardy, dissonant riffs abound, and frontman Tim Harrington is one of the best ranters in the business. But the group never forgets to sneak some solid hooks into the frenzy, and it doesn’t mind occasionally offering up a massive shoutalong chorus every couple of tracks.
Classic Les Savy Fav fare, but their lively rock still translates best in the live arena. Chris Beanland 2010 Les Savy Fav's unique selling point is their Dadaesque live shows, the Brooklyn-via-Rhode Island outfit having now delivered 15 years’ worth of these intoxicating performances. Though all members have got involved, playing encores beneath a band-sized blanket, it’s with good reason that attentions are almost exclusively focused the way of singer Tim Harrington.