Savages can be a tricky prospect for the uninitiated. They can be serious and sometimes pretentious. They’re hard to pin down. They want to be difficult – not for the sake of being difficult itself, but to tease out life’s bigger truths of love and experience.
Adore Life is an album of – albeit aggressive – love songs, but they’re about love in a larger, more macro sense; Singer Jehnny Beth has cited Swans’ Michael Gira as inspiration for this theme. Adore Life’s first single and opening track “The Answer” is a brutal, pounding chunk of riff with syncopated drums, underpinning the lyrics “Please stand up/What is the point/To cry for life/To cry about love/To wait for her/To wait for dying/I can’t wait/If you don’t love me, you don’t love anybody/Love is the answer.”
Key track “Adore” is startling in its relative musical austerity, but listening to it, it soon becomes clear that emotional austerity doesn’t belong here. Inspired by the life of poet and LGBT activist Minnie Bruce Pratt, its lyrics lean heavily into impulses on the road to self-doubt and regret, but they’re assuaged and made productive by the mantra “I adore life/Do you adore life?” The song’s deceptively simple video, a pared-back, stylized performance, hits the point home: its self-searching is so unashamedly naked and earnest that it inspires the same in viewers.
“Slowing Down the World” is a personal favourite, featuring a gently swaggering, intertwined guitar-and-bass line and lyrics about someone concerned about her own infatuation with her partner. She wants to live in the moment, but she doesn’t want to have wasted it on the wrong person.
Ultimately, the best post-punk revival band isn’t doing anything interesting if they’re just regurgitating slogans of the 20th century. For Savages, the most note-perfect recreation of how that one ‘80s band makes you feel is still hollow if it panders to a past you, not the you of today, and the day after that, and the day after that.
Savages don’t deal in purity. They’re about wrenching hard truths and self-knowledge out of the unrelenting messiness of life. They’ve fashioned a manifesto – a mythology – out of their contradictions, and they stand by it.
They want the present you, in all its imperfection. They demand the best, truest version of you that exists, and it’s what they demand in themselves. Savages are for people who are looking for some truth inside themselves, palatable or bitter, whatever that truth is.
- Laura Friesen
Published in Volume 70, Number 21 of The Uniter (February 25, 2016)