Released January 22, 2016
In 1979, Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures was released and a musical counter-culture became a phenomenon. Like a bereaved, broody brother to punk predecessors, it was iconic for its disobedience, slowing down typically thrashing leads atop booming, basic bass. But it was the personalities that made it special; delving into emotional extremes, people latched on to it as angst rose and culture could barely break through the concrete of the Cold War.
The genre has seen a resurrection lately, and at the forefront is Savages, an all-female four piece hailing from gloomy London. In this new era, they skip the depressive lyrics, opting for discussions of progressive sexuality and gender. The trademarks of post punk sound are there, but presented with a previously unseen ferocity and drive; simple riffs build up into cacophonic climaxes, but bass driven interludes are littered throughout to draw from and display their influences. While this was done on 2011’s Silence Yourself, there are vast improvements to the bands formulas. Harmonies on Sad Person are haunting, guitars on The Answer reach a new level of grandiosity, and Adore is so meticulously multifaceted, you can’t help but notice the newfound maturity.
The variety better reflects the subject matter; reverb laden leads linger like lost love and contrasting cacophony channels the ensuing anger. However, when the parts are discording, it brings the galloping, thrashing momentum to a halt. It’s the cohesion of jarring differences that separate the best versatile bands from the rest, and Savages haven’t quite mastered the transition. On I Need Something New, Jenny Beth steps into the forefront, wailing into the surrounding silence, but it sticks out for all the wrong reasons. The band is at its best when all four members are putting every ounce of energy into their respective performances. Odder yet, is how it follows the phenomenal Slowing Down the World, which stands true to its title. The two pieces don’t connect organically and creates a palpable break in between two fantastic wholes.
Much like Silence Yourself, the band approaches perfection but gets lost in an attempt to be bold. Muddled by their own message, their dedication to a theme can border on overbearing and overstated; some ideas fall flat, especially in comparison to the excellence of its high points. Adore Life is the perfect example of an album that suffers by being attempting to be something beyond the sum of its parts. The cohesion that holds the pieces together is faulty compromising the integrity of their entirety. Though it arguably improves on their debut in every way, there are still the same couple moments that ruin the flow that is so expertly established, causing a calamitous halt. Still, the newfound passion and energy Savages bring to a genre with ill aging tropes is an accomplishment in itself. By rooting their sound in sex and its effect on identity, they draw from personal strife, powering the thunderous romp of rock.