On their sophomore album, London-native rock band Savages bring to the table much of what brought them to where they are. Lead singer Jehnny Beth does her best to toe the line of operatic singing and David Byrne-like vocal contortion. But it really is the marriage of all four members together — Beth’s voice, Fay Milton’s drumming, Ayse Hassan’s bass playing and Gemma Thompson’s guitar-supplied soundscapes — that allow for much on the album to work.
Perhaps the most commendable aspect of their new album “Adore Life” is the band’s ability to maintain their chugging sound from their first album, “Silence Yourself,” without the record seeming like an exact carbon copy. “Adore Life” does not have the consistency of its predecessor, but the record’s peaks seem unmatched by the rest of the band’s discography.
At times Beth and the group ditch their blitzing Ian Curtis and Siouxie homages for love ballads. But these are not your conventional love songs. Beth bellows romantic promises that are reminiscent of holding someone hostage. In “Sad Person” Beth promises, “I’m not gonna hurt you, ‘cause I’m flirting with you. I’m not gonna hurt myself.”
The ballads and soundscapes don’t seem nearly as blaring or chugging as the frenetic pace of “Silence Yourself,” but the heaviness of those tracks can be found in the subject matter and cadence found in Beth’s vocals.
Weight can be found in the ambiguity of Beth’s lyrics, as these evocations of love often wade into moments of threats and demands.
Much has been made in the lead-up to the album release of Beth’s infatuation with fellow postpunk band SWANS and their ringleader Michael Gira. The weight of many of the lyrics in “Adore Life” comes from their repetition. This can be found most prominently in the track “Adore,” where for five minutes Beth asks the question “Is it human to adore life?”
With each swell from Thompson’s distorted guitar, you’re left thinking Beth is on the precipice of an answer. The song masterfully handles the uncertainty of this existential question with the eventual build to sheer silence. Hassan’s bass holds the structure of the nonverbal contemplation as the song begins to rebuild with Beth’s repetitive assurance and confirmation that “I adore life. Do you adore life?”
And while the band allows for quiet moments to fill much of “Adore Life,” the listener is immediately pushed into their former vigor with standout tracks such as “T.I.W.Y.G. (This Is What You Get)” where the visual and primal bouncing of bodies in a mosh pit can be heard as the screeching guitar and up-tempo drums and bass guitar force Beth to manage the undoubtable high energy of their live crowds.
And “T.I.W.Y.G” fits so well with the concepts of love found in the album. The penultimate track comes long after Beth’s contemplation of adoration and love being the answer to all ailments, and the sturdiness of the album’s whole seems to harden this belief further by the time the “T.I.W.Y.G.” feedback-laced intro enters the picture.
Through the hard-nosed pacing comes Beth’s complementary stiff delivery, which is a clear juxtaposition to her whirling acrobatics in the earlier stages of “Adore Life.”
“Adore Life” conceptually tackles the subject matter Savages approach, as the album is the second produced with aid from Beth’s partner Johnny Hostile. They successfully reason with the thought that love is as much an institution of darkness and power as that of dependency and infatuation. The band does this while showing another shade of their intensity and undoubtedly what will keep their voice and rock music relevant.