Savages – “Adore Life”

Grade: A-

Key Tracks: “The Answer,” “I Need Something New”

There’s something to be said about sophomore albums from traditionally angry bands. On debuts, bands trying to make an image can flaunt it all on record. But if their debut is successful, as Savages’ “Silence Yourself” was, then a follow-up of equally angry and aggressive songs is going to sound more hollow amidst the increased fame and exposure. While most bands might try to capitalize and create another album of the same, Savages have openly embraced their newfound exposure. “Adore Life” is filled with songs that are deceivingly optimistic, love songs even. But the band finds ways to embrace anger among optimism, and no it shouldn’t work, but it often does.

The first Savages album was marked by very sweaty songs where the guitars built up in crescendoing rhythms. Although there’s a few of those here, the band announces a change from the opening chords of “The Answer.” It’s loud as hell, but the guitar rhythm plays on, unchanging, for about a minute and a quarter. And when it does change, it goes right back to where it was. This album is more diverse than their debut was, with a wider range in emotion and influence.

There’s more brooding on this album. The title track is a toned-down ode to life that still sounds utterly abysmal even in its optimism. The finale, “Mechanics,” is also super lowkey, given the rest of the album. It has an aura of goth to it, although the influence of touring with Swans is obvious too. Throughout the album’s quieter or more down moments, the band sounds like they’re recording in a sewer, like it’s something we’re not supposed to know about it (which is extremely effective, by the way). The band allows themselves time to expand that they didn’t on their first album.

Of course, they don’t always take it. “The Answer,” “I Need Something New” and “T.I.W.Y.G.” all rip, hard. The second two could have easily been cuts from the first album, very sweat-inducing post-punk tracks that absolutely overflow with energy and ferocity. Even with some more drawn-out songs, Savages are at their strongest when their putting everything upfront to the listener, and the best songs here do just that.

Savages also sound more formed here. While “Silence Yourself” is a group project, each member gets their time to shine on this album. Singer Jehnny Beth gets moments throughout, although she sounds the strongest on “Slowing Down the World” and “I Need Something New.” Guitarist Gemma Thompson dominates “The Answer” even with just one rhythm repeated over and over again. Ayse Hassan gets a bass lead on “Adore,” and drummer Fay Milton adds the energy to “T.I.W.Y.G.” and “When In Love” to chug those songs along with wicked propulsion.

What makes this album unique is the devotion to life and love. The band said they were writing love songs. But keep in mind that this is the same band that put out an ode to rough sex called “Hit Me.” Beth’s lyrics center on love throughout, and it is jarring at first. But it’s a kind of love that stems out of having nothing else left. The band’s slower moments sound pained. Although “Adore” isn’t one of their better songs on its own, it is a mission statement for the band – when you’re hurt physically and emotionally, all you have left is life. Embrace it (“T.I.W.Y.G.”) or simply put up with it (“Slowing Down the World”), either way, it’s the one thing you can’t lose. Again, Savages live up to their name.

If you like this, try: Bully’s “Feels Like,” a young band that subtly sticks some very noisy elements in their otherwise alternative debut album.