Release Date: Jan 22, 2016
Record label: Matador
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock
Few bands can rule that 'love is the answer' without a single wink of irony, and pull it off with magnificent, majestic aplomb. For this reason, amongst many, many more, Adore Life is an utter triumph. Heavy hitting singles The Answer and T.I.W.Y.G set expectation for this record to be every inch as icily furious as Savages’ 2013 debut Silence Yourself, but the sophomore effort from Jehnny Beth and gang brews a different kind of anger.
There are 152 fewer words on the front cover of Adore Life then there were on Savages‘ first album. And one more fist. That, in itself, suggests a couple of things. The first, the fist, is representative of defiance, or solidarity, or aggression, or just plain old power. The absence of the ….
On Silence Yourself, Savages' passion burned so brightly it seemed like it might consume itself before they could record a second album. Fortunately, Adore Life proves that the band not only has the endurance to return, but the finesse to come back better than ever. Jehnny Beth and company sound as bold as they did on their debut, but with a newfound precision that only makes their impact more powerful.
This gang of post-punks’ 2013 debut, Silence Yourself, was a hurtling mass of jagged guitars, thrusting bass and Siouxsie shrieks. Immediately engaging and quite unlike efforts by their peers, it earned the quartet a Mercury nomination. Lead single The Answer begins the follow-up with the kind of speeding onslaught that gained them their fans. A claustrophobia-inducing barrage driven by Gemma Thompson’s grinding, insistent riffs and punctuated by Jehnny Beth’s howls, it’s a glorious start to an album that’s the sophisticated sister of its predecessor.
Savages began as something of an enigma. Staunch in their views and meticulous about their vision, they quickly positioned themselves as a serious band with a lot to say. During the recording of Adore Life, the band's frontwoman, Jehnny Beth, stated that this album would be the solution to the problems documented on their debut LP, Silence Yourself.
From the very beginning, Savages’ live show has possessed a highly flammable, kinetic magnetism. The idea that Jehnny Beth has mere ‘stage presence’ is a clanging understatement. She stares down her audience with narrowed eyes, threatening to explode into crackles of angry purple potassium at a second’s notice, her band fearlessly road-testing new material at almost every show.
When Savages emerged in 2012 with the excellent song "Husbands," a lot of talk of the London band revolved around their frenetic live shows, and that they wanted you to turn your cell phones off at those shows. The second part, not an unfair request, invariably led to discussions of their manifestos and politics, which weren’t always easy to parse. Which is a positive.
When Savages broke through in 2013, the world was not as impressed as it should have been. Live, the snarling all-female quartet were armed to the teeth with slaughtering throbs that sounded like a release of rabid bats inside the ear canals. Yet that feverish racket never quite came to life on the London ensemble's good, but not great, debut Silence Yourself.
It was among 2013’s most acclaimed debut albums, but, in the best possible way, Savages’ Silence Yourself didn’t feel like the work of a band who were going to be around for a long time. It offered music as pointed as the songs’ titles: Hit Me, Shut Up, Strife, I Am Here. The frantic drums, guitar squall and singer Jehnny Beth’s keening vocal sounded like something dramatically flaring into life.
If Savages had wanted a subtitle for their new album Adore Life, the London foursome could have easily gone with In Spite of Everything, Sometimes Including Yourself. The post-punk band changes its focus on the follow-up to their stern 2013 debut, Silence Yourself, turning from fraught self-discovery, built around recriminations and lust, to something resembling love—along with a few more recriminations, for good measure. Though Adore Life is about love, it’s love of a tentative sort.
“Is it human to adore life?” asks Savages vocalist Jehnny Beth on “Adore”, the de facto title track of her band’s violently self-assured sophomore album, Adore Life. She repeats the question at least a half-dozen times before the song is finished, as if convinced she’ll get closer to the answer by digging into the words themselves. If Beth were a superhuman — and it’s easy to imagine her as one, dressed all in black and prowling across the stage like a predatory shadow — her power would lie in this kind of manic repetition.
Adore Life is more mildly disappointing than actually disappointing, like getting a Werther's from your nice grandma instead of a Rolo: good, just...not as good as it could've been. Especially comparing it to Savages' brilliant 2013 debut Silence Yourself, a collection put together almost perfectly in terms of structure, length, etc. Even clocking in at 40 minutes, Adore Life feels weirdly stunted, like it's just not quite THERE as a whole album.
Savages stormed in like a force of nature with Shut Up, a potent introduction that may have given the impression that they were in it to bring about some kind of statement. It became a polemic point of discussion, quickly dismissing any songwriting merit to instead focus on this idea that the London foursome were somehow putting forth some feminist agenda. This very occurrence only made Shut Up even more prescient - that iconoclastic lead singer Jehnny Beth was gravelly swooning “And if you tell me to shut up/ I would tell you to shut it” before any criticism had taken place, and then having lived through it after its release, only proves how there’s an instilled fear for vocal and resolute independence.
British post-punk revivalists Savages released their debut album, 2003’s Silence Yourself, in May 2013 to considerable acclaim. Buzz had been swirling around the band since their first single released the prior year, “Flying to Berlin”/ “Husbands”, and the enormous promise evident in the single was realized on their Mercury Prize nominated full-length debut. Savages sound can best be described as spiky post-punk with plenty of aggression with manic and intense vocal performances by Jehnny Beth.
In a week in which I’ve wanted to listen to zero music by anybody other than David Bowie, it’s been strangely bracing and instructive to have been required to repeat listen to Adore Life, the second album by Savages. Colour, humour, whimsy, drugs, abstraction, musical restlessness: these Bowie-ish qualities are not ones you associate with Savages. And yet that’s kind of the glory of them: in between maudlin listens to Blackstar and Low and Outside and Aladdin Sane and Diamond Dogs this week, Adore Life has kind of held its own, in its own territory.
With its raised-fist cover photo and violent, primal post-punk grind, you'd expect the second album from arty London band Savages to be an anti-everything screed. But their music is driven by emotions that are almost unprecedented in the genre that gave us Joy Division and Public Image Limited: "Love is the answer," they advise, somewhat shockingly, against the spiked guitar tumult and haymaker drum assault of "Answer," like flowers of romance in full bloom. Vocalist Jehnny Beth's affirming lyrics and torrid, imperious Siouxsie Sioux-style vocals elevate guitar atmospherics and angularly forceful rhythms, giving songs like the explosively lurching "I Need Something New" and the bracing dance-rocker "Evil" an open-armed grandeur.
The first, confrontational album by Savages – 2013’s Mercury-nominated Silence Yourself – consciously avoided the subject of love, not least because so many females in pop routinely explore it. Adore Life, by contrast, tackles love from different angles, none of them particularly gentle. The questioning Adore is a slow Left Bank skulk, the Savages equivalent to a torch song, but Savages work best at speed.
Savages’ conflicted thesis statement for their seething sophomore LP, Adore Life, lopes into the album’s stark black-and-white frame on its flamenco-tinged second track, “Evil”: “Don’t try to change / The way they made you,” Jehnny Beth snarls from deep within her throat. During the song’s coda, she yelps the title over and over again, as if trying to exorcise her own demons by breaking them upon Fay Milton’s punishing drums. Her verses’ sneering terms are broad, yet specific enough to encompass religion (“Stay Catholic”) and how women are socialized in our culture (“Only one way to raise a family”), but those two lines in particular apply to how the clique of four imperious London punks chose to follow their towering 2013 debut, Silence Yourself.
When London post-punk band Savages first received wide notice, it was with the release of anthem “She Will” ahead of 2013 debut album Silence Yourself. At the heart of the track is a use of repetition to center the four-piece’s power, with each line of the verse expanding on the song’s title, while the hook is the intensifying reiteration of those same two words. Now, three years later, Savages have unveiled the follow-up to their much-hyped debut, with repetition showing up often on Adore Life, sometimes working to its intended end result, but mostly landing as formulaic and uninspired.
The Upshot: On their second full-length, he hipster-approved musicians settle the question of whether or not they are merely a simulacra of good things or the real effin’ deal. Around about 2013, the buzz on Silence Yourself, the Savages’ first incendiary album, centered around whether it was original enough or whether it mined a set of early 1980s influences — Siouxie, Dead Kennedys, Joy Division — without adding anything fresh. The band was allowed, in a lot of quarters, to get by on sheer force and presence, the invisible “it factor” that makes an ensemble good in whatever format is chooses to play in.
Post-punk rarely comes across as an embrace as well as an open call to arms. But on Savages’ second record, Adore Life, the ten urgent, taut new songs are equally determined to snap us out of our revelry, while also challenging listeners to find love where we can and make the world a better place in the process. While 2013’s Silence Yourself was filled with untamed, strident anthems of assertion and incisiveness, the new record is far more seductive in both its convictions and its potency.
"Adore Life" is Savages' follow-up to 2013's “Silence Yourself.” Savages arrived in 2013 pointing fingers and blasting guitars, its discontents compressed into four-minute blasts of music notably short on frills. The U.K. quartet was the kind of band that would take the stage and make listeners instinctively take a step back, as if bracing for a beat-down.
Say what you may about their methods, but Savages are very, very serious about what they do. Their debut album, Silence Yourself, was essentially a treatise on information overload. They wanted you to take the title literally. In a world polluted with noises constantly grappling for your attention it was a reminder that, on occasion, it’s okay (necessary) to shut the fuck up and listen.
Savages — Adore Life (Matador)Any band past their debut album faces the moment when they start to contemplate their next one. There’s a pause to consider where they’re going next. Bands have a voice, a set of parameters that guide the songwriting process, and those parameters get more firmly established over time — hence albums by older bands often sound essentially the same.
For the most part, this is an album of love songs: not in the trite, wishy-washy sense of the word but as an elemental and all-consuming force – “Suffering, straight from the gods,” as the ferocious ‘T.I.W.Y.G.’ memorably puts it. “I want to know the come and go, the mechanics and all the tricks of love,” sings Jehnny on spartan closing track ‘Mechanics’, while Thompson’s guitar whistles past her like tumbleweed. Like ‘Adore Life’ itself, the answer seems as simple as it does mystifying: pleasure and pain, submission and control, a box of matches you can’t help playing with.
“Love is the answer” is the mantra that kicks off London quartet Savages’ second album. That sounds like something out of the early disco era, when underground music reacted to the conservatism of mainstream rock with radical inclusivity. In 2016, rock musicians are perpetually recycling ideas, and another song on Adore Life seems more appropriate for the times: I Need Something New.