Adore Life is a considerable improvement, an honest attempt by Savages to set themselves apart.
Okay, be honest: how many of you still listen to Silence Yourself? Looking back, it seems a little absurd that people were getting so excited about Savages’ debut album. Sure, the righteous rage and political awareness that infused Jehnny Beth’s lyrics was refreshing, but once you pulled away from the album’s initial shock, what you were left with was a pretty rote post-punk album with a new lyrical focus as the only thing to separate it from dozens of similar-sounding albums. As such, Adore Life presented an opportunity for Savages to assert themselves as something more than NME cover darlings destined for obscurity. As it turns out, there might be more to Savages than the hype, though not as much as we’d hoped.
Upon repeated listens, Silence Yourself is striking for its monochromatic sound. Now, this isn’t a death knell for a rock band; few people rag on, say, The Strokes for making most of the songs on Is This It? sound the same. Still, sticking to this sort of formula can be a trap for most young bands, and it’s one that Savages do their best to avoid on Adore Life. One could still point to the oft-repeated post-punk icons like Siouxsie & the Banshees and Gang of Four as clear influences on songs like “Sad Person” and “The Answer,” but other tracks show the band trying new tricks on for size. First single “Adore” — by far the best song the band have released since their debut single “Husbands” – has a sinister art-rock edge, while “Slowing Down The World” draws the listener in with sinewy rhythms and cutting guitar work unlike anything the band has done before.
This slow evolution isn’t limited to the band’s music, however. Adore Life also finds Jehnny Beth exploring different ideas and concepts in her lyrics. “Adore” serves as a meditation on the futility of life and whether something so temporal and anguish-inducing can really be appreciated. Her pieces on gender dynamics have a somewhat more nuanced approach, even if that sometimes stands in contrast to the blunt, forceful attack that her band provides on songs like “T.I.W.Y.G.” That song succinctly sums up the larger problem with Adore Life: for all of their growth, Savages are still something of a one-note band, and their attempts at evolution are jarring when placed alongside songs or stylistic choices that clearly come from a place of artistic comfort. Quite simply, Savages can’t help but be like Savages, even when they’re trying their damnedest not to be Savages.
One would imagine that people would be disappointed with Adore Life for not living up to the promise of its predecessor, but it’s important to remember that that promise was built on media hype more than it was on the band’s actual work. In truth, Adore Life is a considerable improvement, an honest attempt by Savages to set themselves apart. That’s definitely preferable to another record of post-punk despondency that causes journalists to show off how many early 80’s bands they know. Still, Savages have some distance to travel before they can rightfully claim to be the earth-shaking group that so many were promised just three years ago.