Savages - Silence Yourself

That this is Savages’ debut album seems astonishing.

The artwork for Savages’ debut record seems to capture them perfectly. Shot in stark black and white it features a piece of prose that weaves together the ideas of the album, focusing on the title of the record and the noise that disturbs our modern lives.

‘If the world would only shut up / even for a while / perhaps / we would start hearing… the distant rhythm of an angry young tune.’

This is a band who have a very clear vision of how they want to communicate.

It’s no surprise. Savages arrived with their brutal single ‘Husbands’ and the 2012 live EP ‘I Am Here’ as a band seemingly already fully formed. Concise, austere and ferocious, they even have their own manifesto: ‘SAVAGES is not trying to give you something you didn’t have already, it is calling within yourself something you buried ages ago… We must teach ourselves new ways of POSITIVE MANIPULATIONS, music and words are aiming to strike like lightning, like a punch in the face.’

Everything seems very, well, black and white. And this is an album which is nothing if not concise. There are only two song titles which are more than two words. Produced by Johnny Hostile and Rodaidh McDonald, Savages have created an album of the tautest of post-punk with barely an excess note. This is a record with no fat.

It’s a lean and ferociously dark statement of intent. Black, as we all know, is an absence of colour. A perfect absorber of light. But this light which is absorbed ultimately becomes heat. And ‘Silence Yourself’ burns with its intensity. It’s jagged and angular and, as they say, ‘straight to the point, efficient and exciting.’ They take all their influences: Stooges, Public Image Ltd, Magazine, Siouxsie And The Banshees and Joy Division and meld these sounds into something that is uniquely them.

Yet for all this fierce conviction and concision, this is an album about cracks and worries; flaws and shattered ideas. About stretch marks and domestic violence. About taking imperfections and injustice and gaining control again.

The album’s first track, ‘Shut Up’ opens with an excerpt from the 1977 John Cassavetes film, ‘Opening Night’, itself a mesmerising study of anxiety and identity crisis. It’s a mirror to this album. The words give way to low bass and wiry tension and clangs of percussion thunder. It’s got that inimitable swagger that the best bands have, with Jehnny Beth singing, ‘Speaking words to the blind.’

The urban dread of ‘City’s Full’ (which was on the Live EP) is equally forceful. Fuzzy guitar and a rattling rhythm section soundtrack a narrative where we hear about loving ‘the stretch marks on your thighs… the wrinkles around your eyes.’

It’s an album where the intensity doesn’t drop very often. ‘Dead Nature’ is the stillness at the centre of the album, a brooding, slow and atmospheric instrumental, it’s the sound of a city in the dead of night. Clocks tick and the wind blows through it.

But before you can catch your breath, the album launches off again. ‘She Will’ is all towering guitar and the repeated refrain of the title and ‘No Face’s’ spiky bass line and massive guitar make it the most visceral thing on here, before an almost otherworldly torch song moment brings it to a close as Jehnny sings, ‘Don’t worry about breaking my heart.’

‘Hit Me’ is more gonzo Stooges rock while the re-recorded ‘Husbands’ sounds tauter and more menacing than it did originally, which is some feat. Even now it still seems incredible. A shrieking, untamed beast of a song, it’s all there: urgency, drama, terror, isolation.

The album ends with the jazzy ‘Marshal Dear’, a chance to breathe and reflect as twinkling piano soundtracks Jehnny Beth singing the album’s title. ‘Silence yourself… Silence yourself.’

That this is Savages’ debut record seems astonishing. It’s an album which demands you listen, an album about experiences, when the familiar becomes alien, when things slip away. And, most importantly, this album is about taking control back.

It does it with conviction and vigour, with squalling guitars and wiry bass lines. This might not be a new idea, but Savages make it sound vital. As they say in their manifesto, ‘This album is to be played loud in the foreground.’

Tags: Savages, Reviews, Album Reviews

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