First post of 2016 y'all!
It is no secret that the punk scene is one of the most male-dominated in the music world, both past and present. Even with the incredibly refreshing and revolutionary Riot Grrrl movement in the 1990’s, one can’t help but feel disheartened by the lack of female-fronted punk bands making it ‘big’ compared to their male counterparts. The issue isn’t just representation; however, it takes very little research to find a heap of tweets, blog posts and articles about women of all ages, races, shapes and sizes feeling unsafe and/or uncomfortable at punk shows. Despite my rather limited life experience, even I am not naive enough to think that this issue is exclusive to the punk scene, but the point still stands that change needs to happen. In the metal scene for example, on the rare occasion when a female artist breaks out like Myrkur, her videos are swamped with comments about her only getting noticed because of her gender. As far as I’m concerned, good music is good music and gender is irrelevant when I’m listening to it.
This is why Savages are such an important band to have around in 2016. Even in an age where gender and identity is such a ‘hot topic’, no one gives a fuck about their gender because they are just objectively brilliant. Fronted by Jehnny Beth, their brand of noir post-punk gained universal acclaim when the band dropped their phenomenal debut Silence Yourself back in 2013. But what truly made me fall for this band was their electrifying live performances; even through my laptop screen, the band’s ferocity and unquestionable chemistry captivated me like very few other acts can. While their debut was a dark and icy affair, Adore Life, like the title suggests, is triumphant in every sense of the word.
Rather than opening with a whisper, Adore Life kicks off with a bang in the form of “The Answer” — the gritty and erratic guitar hook lets you know exactly what you’re in for — a thrill ride. This is reflected by the blunt and urgent lyrics which swirl around a whirlpool of instrumental fire. The repetition of “I’ll go insane” among bursts of optimism (“Love is the answer”) only adds to the sense of confusion and the hysteria that engulf the track. On the other end of the scale (and the track listing for that matter); penultimate track “Surrender” is a more low-key and brooding affair, with Ayşe Hassan’s soul-crushing bassline taking center stage, with Gemma Thompson’s blade-like guitar riffs creating additional texture as the track builds.
Between these two contrasts, Adore Life is held together by the centerpiece that is “Adore”, which also marks a stunning turn in the band’s signature sound. I use the term ‘signature’ lightly, especially considering that the band only have two full-lengths under their belts. The first half of the track has a sense of restraint that feels almost alien; the guitars are reduced to soft licks, Fay Milton’s drums aren’t ‘crashing’ by any means and Beth’s vocals are almost…soft and inviting. These ‘restrained’ elements eventually cumulative into a stunning and majestic climax in which Beth reaches a sense of enlightenment – after years of searching and longing, she is finally able to say “I adore life”. It is at this moment where the record as a whole falls into place like an intricate post-punk puzzle.
Although Adore Life is far from a sonic leap for Savages, it is still a remarkable follow up to a magnetic and confident debut. The band’s four key elements are as respectively strong as ever. Jehnny Beth’s commanding vocals, Ayşe Hassan’s crunchy bass, the sharpness of Gemma Thompson’s guitar riffs and the military precision in Fay Milton’s drumming make every track on Adore Life a sonic delight. For me, “Adore” is a complete turning-point in the band’s sound and Beth’s writing, one which I hope will continue to take the band down a new path of discovery and sonic exploration. In an age where so many people are forced to shout twice as hard just to be heard, one thing is for certain; Jehnny Beth’s commanding growl is one that cannot be ignored. Long live Savages!