It’s been nearly three years since the icy standard bearers of modern post-punk released their highly anticipated debut – which arrived to critical acclaim. And now its sophomore, ‘Adore Life’, brings the continued aggression with true excellence, in a slightly warmer fashion.
What immediately strikes you on first listen through is the natural progression of a band like this – it’s a step in the right direction. It could have been too easy to pigeonhole Savages into the resurgence of post-punk sound-alikes that began to emerge in the last half-century. But the girls remain firmly on the pedestal away from the rest, with a balance of familiarity and bold changes in direction throughout.
Opening track ‘The Answer’ is a barrage of cascading rhythms from the first hit – the production of Jonny Hostile (Jehnny Beth’s other half / bandmate / muse) is still evident in its distorted bass tones and in its immense and spacious guitars. It squeals, shrieks against the thunderous low end, creating a perfectly balanced bombardment of sound – reminiscent of later Swans material.
In fact, there is a hint of Michael Gira’s influence seemingly appearing elsewhere through the dark cracks of this album. ‘I Need Something New’ features the signature beating of Gemma Thompson’s fretboard, with its climatic push of feedback and white noise. The album has traces of that post-punk sound that they’d crafted on the first offering, but the songs here seem much more highly concentrated, more calculated. Which is a good thing – the sound still holds its direct and antagonistic message, but just by holding together the layers in a warmer, more delicate approach during production, it seems to improve the meaning. It’s a premeditated racket.
The first album was a glacial, almost uncomfortable listen throughout, with one song (‘Marshal Dear’) displaying a more emotional and soft side to the band’s writing. This album has held host to a few more of those ballad-like tracks, with ‘Adore’ and ‘Mechanics’ both playing the part of the other side to Jehnny’s lyrical mask – they stand proudly against the plethora of her usual harsh and cold deliveries, and unveil her more vulnerable imagery in these beautiful counterparts, in the most theatrical of ways.
By the final whispers of the album, you feel positively bruised; masochistic, I know. But this is a cultivated and enlightening second offering from the Anglo-French masters of aggression, and it demands you sit down and shut the fuck up. Do as you’re told.
‘Adore Life’ is out January 22nd
Words from Jack Stevens