15 Feb 2016

Adore Life by Savages

From The Sampler, 12:00 pm on 15 February 2016

London outfit Savages Photo: Supplied

Nick Bollinger sounds out the second album by all-female foursome Savages.

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On the second album from London-based Savages it’s recognisably the same band whose debut came bearing the instruction: this album is to be played loud in the foreground. But if Savages’ music demands to be heard, what do listeners get in return for their attention?

In many ways it’s an old idea: guitar, bass drums and a singer with attitude. The tough angularity echoes post-punk bands like Gang Of Four and Wire; at other times P.J. Harvey.

The focus is inevitably on Jehnny Beth, the group’s singer. Beth is French, in contrast to the other three, who grew up in Britain. And though she sings in English (albeit with a strong French accent) there is more than a touch of the French existentialist about her. ‘Is it human to ask for more?’ she enquires in the album’s title track. ‘Is it human to adore life?’

If their earlier album shocked at times, toying as it did with transgressive sexual imagery – and included a song called ‘Hit Me’ – the new record seems to address and possibly clarify some of the questions raised by the earlier one. A recurring question in these songs is ‘what is love?’

One thing you are unlikely to get from Adore Life is a lot of laughs. Savages’ music is serious stuff, from Jehnny Beth’s searching philosophical questions to the whole band’s earnest riff-making.

Yet there is a hint the group might, in their own way, be lightening up. If their first album was a sonic study in black and white, Adore Life has more musical grey areas. ‘Mechanics’, the closing track, is a near-ambient study in shades, with what sounds like a bow being applied to both strings and cymbals, and the guitar amplifier being used as an instrument in its own right.

Savages might not do a lot that hasn’t been done before. Still it would be hard to find a band today doing it with more precision, power or purpose.

Songs played: : Evil, Sad Person, Slowing Down the World, Adore, When In Love, Mechanics, The Answer