Music Reviews
Adore Life

Savages Adore Life

(Matador) Rating - 7/10

Savages stormed in like a force of nature with Shut Up, a potent introduction that may have given the impression that they were in it to bring about some kind of statement. It became a polemic point of discussion, quickly dismissing any songwriting merit to instead focus on this idea that the London foursome were somehow putting forth some feminist agenda. This very occurrence only made Shut Up even more prescient - that iconoclastic lead singer Jehnny Beth was gravelly swooning “And if you tell me to shut up/ I would tell you to shut it” before any criticism had taken place, and then having lived through it after its release, only proves how there’s an instilled fear for vocal and resolute independence.  

Shut Up was ultimately just a song, one that, if anything, wanted to prove that Savages are dutifully obeying the more unruly side of post-punk. Savages were in fact advocating the free expression of one’s thoughts and ideas, but most importantly, feelings. That a feeling can be entirely vague and even baseless, that it’s okay to just express yourself even if it’s not entirely grounded in reason. But it’s only a tiny grain of Savages’ mission statement, if there even is one - Silence Yourself just happened to touch on themes that can easily get misconstrued into political arguments because they’re essentially human. Beth has expressed multiple times how she abhorred how critics were exploiting their message to prove a point, to emphasize their own viewpoints, which she didn’t find at fault since she only sees it as background feedback, just another minor distraction. 

As anyone can attest from their incendiary live performances, Savages were beginning to take a noisier, even more drone-indebted sound while previewing some of their new material during their festival run-around last year. One of these was Adore Life album opener The Answer, one that stubbornly proclaims “If you don’t love me/you don’t love anybody” over an assaulting riff that would lead one to believe that the band was taking a decidedly more austere, and possibly even metal, route. It suddenly took a different air, as Beth was pouring out plainspoken sentiments that read more self-acquiescent than defiant. This yearning for change permeates throughout Adore Life, one where Beth is compelled to declare that “love is the answer” with an edgy desperation that proves that submitting oneself to love’s controlling oscillations can be both poisonous and destructive.

Beth utterly gives herself to those tantalizing moments, willfully abandoning herself to the moment no matter how dangerous it may seem. Silence Yourself sounded unruly, but it also gave the notion that she thought she was in control, whereas the character she embodies in Adore Life is eager to take chances even if the potentiality of royally screwing up is very high. In Sad Person, Beth isn’t coy to admit that she’s still struck by some past relationship, admitting to herself that “love is a disease/the strongest addiction I know”; she shows some apprehension while initiating flirtatious exchanges as if afraid of ratcheting up the emotional stakes. Her declarations can sometimes seem rather prompt, as “I Need Something New” doesn’t really leave much to the imagination except the obvious; it doesn’t help that the disquieting rhythm section doesn’t initially match with her self-serving debate at what constitutes being moral, though it does improve once she details a pent-up cry of lustful release that’s both revealing and sensual.

While Savages have upped their game in terms of song craft in Adore Life, starting with the impeccable instrumentation, it doesn’t always favor the task at hand. It’d be impossible to replicate their visceral live performances, sure, but the flaws pertain more to the lack of those standout moments that made Silence Yourself such a rousing and anthemic gem. T.I.W.Y.G. is strictly mechanical in form, a less intense version of Hit Me that features a creditable, though still uninspired, frenzied guitar riff that can’t find its way into a standout denouement (its terribly unnecessary acronym doesn’t do it any favors, either). Slowing Down the World also features the album’s most prominent bass line on the album, taking a surprisingly more funkified approach, though the song’s ill-defined chorus fails to really connect once it unshackles itself from its equanimous state. 

It doesn’t come as a surprise, then, that some of the more notable moments in Adore Life come from Savages’ newfound readiness to explore with slower tempos. The life-affirming Adore finds inspiration in Nick Cave’s swampy, penetrating blues, where Beth gets philosophical about the idea of loving life, though not without coming up with the conclusion that, in reality, there’s a very slight chance to truly understand it while we’re still alive. And in the seethingly atmospheric Mechanics, the rhythmic pattern is reduced to a doomed crawl, with Gemma Thompson playing a soulful guitar lead that eerily evokes the shamanic quality of early days The Cult. 

Adore Life, in particular, isn’t so much a maturation but a continuation for Savages. Usually it’s more challenging for bands to find their voice, and yet they seem to have figured out a way to quickly master their brand awareness even if their competence can occasionally lag behind their confidence. The latter is usually harder to achieve, the hurdle that is usually the toughest to overcome, and yet it’s their one commanding asset - to hamper on conventions with a natural force, and doing so free of any restrictions. Savages can surely carry a statement with brazen inclusion, even if they didn’t ask for it in the first place.