Silence Yourself

Written by: TL on 04/10/2013 17:46:17

If you keep an eye on musical headlines in general, you're likely to have seen the name Savages being thrown around a bit these past six months, and if you've dug any deeper, you've likely also noticed that it's hard to have a look at the London band without immediately forming some preconceptions to carry into any listening to their music. The all female quartet essentially look like they're dressing up like Joy Division, and with debut album "Silence Yourself", it not only feels like there's as much message at stake here as music, but one also wonders if Savages are a band that have helped fuel the continuing post-punk revival trend, or rather one that wouldn't have been discovered if it wasn't as a result of it?

The only really interesting determiner however, is of course if their music is worth a damn, and fortunately it appears much better here on "Silence Yourself", than it did the band's Roskilde set. There any discernable musical qualities were drowned in a blur that favoured only noise and attitude, and the band was so lethargic it wouldn't even work if you argued it was part of the point. Here things are better off, for although Savages' sound is still defined less by obvious melodies and more by retro, primal qualities like groove and noise and energy that builds into climaxing releases, the hypnotising bass lines and the more harmonic of the guitar's chords still combine to ensure that the songs don't blur together too much, although the album's bleak, confrontational aesthetic does permeate the mainstay of its runtime.

And indeed, when the keenly defined style combines with the singing of frontwoman Jenny Beth - whose booming lows and howling shrieks have already been compared accurately with Siouxsie Sioux - it seems like Savages are a band that genuinely feel uncomfortable with the world around them, with each tone of their sound at once seeming like a representation of an uncomfortable atmosphere, and like a knife honed sharp, to cut through the wrongness and reclaim a feeling of empowerment.

What strikes me as a problem about Savages however, is that "Silence Yourself" clearly feels more like an album that I'll remember for the strong character of its sound, more than for many particularly well-structured moments in the songs. The opening one-two punch of "Shut Up" and "I Am Here" establishes the band's stubborn attitude right from the beginning, and the moody melody that breaks the otherwise threatening riffs of "City's Full" strikes an excellent contrast, but in all honesty, I've struggled to find the supposedly immersive slow-burn of "Strife" and "Waiting For A Sign" anything but tiresome, as they tend to consistently send my thoughts elsewhere. If you're one for patient layers of depressing guitar noise, these songs will be up your alley, but I find Savages needs Ayse Hassan's bass lines to agitate things.

I get somewhat drawn back in then, when "No Face" comes around, and it's not without a sense of benign surprise that I recognise how much the opening of "Husbands" reminds me of Dead Kennedy's classic "Holiday In Cambodia" - providing another sign that Savages have more nuances in their universe than one could be fooled to believe from their minimalistic black and white artwork. And overall, I understand why especially critics and musical omniscients seem to be so excited by "Silence Yourself", because Savages paint an impressively rich, and more importantly an impressively uncompromising soundscape with it. Yet while I'm fascinated on some level, I've never felt like I've been won over. I keep feeling like it's a work of 'style and attitude over songwriting', and that I'm missing a more engaging red thread, to draw me in and make me identify with the messages, or to make the frustration of this record feel shockingly frustrating rather than tediously frustrating. So while "Silence Yourself" has proven a surprisingly interesting listen, I still ultimately feel that I would not have given it that many listens if I hadn't felt obliged to try to understand it for the sake of a review.

Download: I Am Here, She Will, Husbands
For The Fans Of: talking about the post-punk revival, dreaming of a combination of iceage, The Kills, Dead Kennedys and Siouxsie And The Banshees

Release Date 06.05.2013

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