Album Review: Savages – Adore Life (2016 LP)

Back in 2013, Savages released a critically acclaimed album, Silence Yourself – a post-punk gem that even had its own manifesto as part of the cover art. The anticipation was high then for Adore Life, an album devoted entirely to love songs. Luckily, Savages have lived up to the hype and delivered another excellent LP. 

The album begins with the scorching “The Answer,” an almost-heavy-metal song that perfectly sets the lyrical tone for the rest of the album with Jehnny Beth’s searing vocals. The song is an ambiguous exploration of relationships, with Beth singing, “If you don’t love me, don’t love anyone” – it sounds like it could be either a seductive line or an outright threat.

Beth’s trademark, as on the last album, is the continued repetition of key phrases. On the previous album, this occurred with “Silence Yourself”, while here she best uses the phrase in “Adore”. It’s hard to tell if the repetition of “I adore life!” is genuine, or a sarcastic line, or a yell of desperation; whatever it is, it’s compelling. That’s the biggest selling point of the album –  the through-line of all the songs is an exploration of the ambiguity of love. Happiness, lust, jealousy: it’s all there, sometimes within the space of the same line.

Beth’s voice is perfect for the Wire-esque post-punk sound – she’s a dynamic performer who actually sounds quite a lot like Morrissey (one of whose songs is mentioned in “Adore”). But the rest of the group play their part perfectly as well. The bass is, as with most gloomy post-punk bands, the key instrument apart from the voice and Aye Hassan obliges, with propulsive and dark hooks. Guitarist Gemma Thompson also comes to the party with some serious shredding. The band apparently wanted to write some of the “loudest songs ever” and you certainly can’t fault their effort.

The love theme is carried through basically every song on the album and that might be the main criticism that is given – over 10 songs, it’s hard to maintain interest in any topic, even one so interesting as love. However,  most of the songs have at least one startling or interesting line and one breathtaking moment of musical energy. The highlight for me is “T.I.W.Y.G”, which pairs an intense bass/guitar combo with Beth’s staccato vocal deliveries which becomes distant in the eerie bridge, before exploding back into action.

As with most post-punk bands, Savages are not for everyone. The pulsating basslines and spiky guitars are not for everyone and neither is Beth’s vocal delivery.  But like most acquired tastes, Savages are worth it: patient listeners will be rewarded in spades with an excellent album that takes a perspective on love that is rarely heard.

Review Score: 8.4 out of 10.

Adore Life is out now!


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