Savages want your ears; they want your undying attention and they will do so by tuning your senses to their ferocious post-punk darkness. A dark and problematic recording awaits you through 40 minutes of distortion and venom, and Jehnny Beth (vocalist) will incite the wailing Banshee-esque screeches to help push you onto their level. They post signs at live gigs stating ‘SILENCE YOUR PHONES’, clearly wanting to distance themselves from Insta-snapped, grainy basement video acclaim and reconnect with an audience stuck and confused in a quick fix media hit world. Believe in live, cos these girls do.
The music isn’t new (no need to discuss similarities in sounds; think Siouxsie, QOTSA, Sonic Youth etc.), but it still brings a jagged edge to their image and audio conquests. It’s angular and angry, with Gemma Thompson delivering feedback guitar parts looping and snaking around the chugging bass of Ayse Hassan, all the while Fay Milton keeping all in time with crashes and pounding kicks. An all-girl post-punk band may seem like an obvious choice to send a ‘message’, but these gals are sincere and smart; their music is abrasive, possibly to the point of track-skipping, but isn’t that the reason?
The debut album, Silence Yourself, kicks off with a good 3 tracks of punk fun. A quote from 1977’s Opening Night sets the tone and brings you into ‘Shut Up’. As the tracks progress, you can feel the energy of a live show seeping through, the heady sweaty tumult of writhing bodies in confined spaces bring a real feel to the record. Track two, ‘I Am Here’, delivers more of the QOTSA sound with vocals built to cheer to and an outro built to dance to. ‘City’s Full’ brings the first 3 tracks to a dark punk finish as the middle of the album takes the listener on more of a sonic journey.
‘Strife’ slows the tempo somewhat and brings a great guitar sound that leads us away from the opening of the album. They already have us by the throat, so let’s see how hard they can squeeze. As ‘Waiting for a Sign’ goes through 5+ minutes (long for punk standards) of slowly driven bass runs and scraped guitars thick with reverb, the track ends with an extra 2 minutes of instrumental eeriness with ‘Dead Nature’. Perseverance will pay off, the middle of the album may be the standout area.
‘She Will’ brings it back to the fore, with a slightly more melodic tone and bouncier beat. ‘No Face’ could be a single, with a slightly dissonant guitar riff based around easily catchy lyrics and a great chuggy bridge. ‘Hit Me’ has Smiths-style lyrics within a minute and a half of sustained anger. Distorted vocals are on offer for most of the album, this track bleeds them. ‘Husbands’ is another cracking sing-along slab of ‘up yours’, with a great rhythm and the eponymous shrieking crescendo.
The final track ‘Marshal Dear’ opens with piano and bass around a rattly snare drum rhythm, and guitars and vocals wrapping the piece together with a black ribbon. But what’s this, a major piano chord at 1:11? Surely there could be no light in this darkness? Alas, a heartfelt vocal performance and a jazzy clarinet solo really open up the piece and lend it brevity.
Jehnny Beth has a lot to say, with her clamouring lyrics dealt with a distorted crunch. She can wail, and she wants you to listen. There are few moments of delicacy and intimacy with her performance that make the record feel raw, and she always seems to be having fun. As previously stated, the music may not be that original, with far too many comparisons being drawn from their sound, but it is listenable. It never veers off the tone or message, and always stays interesting. If you want it loud and bitter, you can’t do much better
For fans of post-punk attitude and strong female vocals this is a stormer. A strong debut album, with enough light piercing through to make it accessible, and a deep mid-section and closing track that want you to listen again.
Or go see them live. Just no phones, thank you.