Release Date: Oct 21, 2016
Record label: What's Yr Rupture?
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Retro-Rock
On first glance, it’s easy to peg Savoy Motel as ’70s revivalists. Their logo is rendered in Shotgun font like the title card on some Saturday morning kids’ show; the Lichtenstein-style pop-art graphic of their debut album resembles a bargain-bin K-Tel comp of disco hits. And in their videos, the Nashville quartet come off as a cross between the Partridge family and Manson family, all vintage thrift-store duds and hypnotic blank stares.
Savoy Motel – four alumni of the Nashville garage punk scene – have been generating extraordinary buzz for their debut album, with the parallel emergence of the Lemon Twigs leading to suggestions that guitar music has gone all 1972. Savoy Motel’s take is funkier than the Lemon Twigs’ version of the 70s, but not, in reality, all that funky. It makes them a good idea – garage funk is certainly intriguing enough a notion – and where the songs are strong enough, as on the opening Souvenir Shop Rock, they’re compelling enough.
With artwork taken straight from ‘Saturday Night Fever’s cutting room floor, a wardrobe seemingly robbed from The Osmonds and a frontman (Jeffrey Novak) possessed with the kind of wobbling falsetto that suggests he could harmonise quite nicely with old man Herbert from Family Guy, it’s sometimes hard to take Savoy Motel entirely seriously. But this is 2016 baby, and these days our 70s references come slathered in so much pomp and preposterousness, they’re basically one pair of platform shoes away from a pisstake – just ask Foxygen or The Lemon Twigs if you’re not convinced. Often this is a fabulous thing, such as on the sassy shoulder shimmy of ‘Doctor Cook’ or the frankly ludicrous ‘Western Version Boogie’ – a funk odyssey through slap bass, strings and the kind of strut last heard on the soundtrack to ‘Shaft’.
Back in 1995, Mike Watt told us, "The kids of today should defend themselves against the '70s. " Watt was (and is) old enough to speak from first-hand experience, but did we (or they) listen? It seems the decade of bad clothing and iffy musical decisions still refuses to die as a cultural reference point, and the debut album from Nashville indie rockers Savoy Motel is a case in point. Featuring two former members of Cheap Time (bassist, vocalist, keyboard man, and songwriter Jeffrey Novak and drummer and vocalist Jessica McFarland) and two alumni from Heavy Cream (guitarist and vocalist Mimi Galbierz and lead guitarist Dillon Watson), Savoy Motel is stylistically hip deep in the '70s, so much so that their online claim "Savoy Motel are not a post-punk band or a retro glam revival group" can only be read with the deepest sarcasm.
If Glam Rock is supposedly back with avengence then in truth it’s back as a slightly weird simulacrum in keeping with the Strangest Year of Our Lord Twenty Sixteen. Roman gladiators Guida have tapped into obscure 70s bovver rock, French glitter outliers Moodoïd are more experimental psychedelia than anything else, while if the UK has revivalists then they’re only tenuously so (The Guardian recently attached Welsh singer Meilyr Jones to the movement crediting him with a glam rock “state of mind” more than anything else). The American strain is yet more attenuated still, with Long Island’s the Lemon Twigs looking the part, but the brothers D'Addario are far more beholden to Gram than Glam (Parsons that is).