Album Review

Silence Yourself

Silence Yourself

by Savages


Matador
9 / 10
13th May

Reviewed by Vincent Michaelsen


In The Birthday Party's 'King Ink', Nick Cave screams "Say something/Express yourself/Say something loudly", an introspective call to create something relevant, to cut through the bullshit and do something that matters. Savages' message - shut up, silence yourself - sounds like a 180-degree turn from Cave’s post punk ethos, but the message is really the same. The band's website features industrial but poetic words speaking against the noise of modern life and all it's relentless distractions. They ask concertgoers to silence their phones, immerse themselves in live shows. It’s one example of how our attention is becoming more and more fractured, and one that has become clearly visible over the last few years. This is a band here to make a point; their manifesto states "This album is to be played loud and in the foreground" - I think that's a pretty good place to begin.

Savages clearly don’t fuss around when talking about the attitude they take, and neither does their music; the album is a fury. After a sampled dialogue introduction from John Cassavetes’ film Opening Night (the brief monologue on the video version appears to be taken from their own writings), the album’s first track, ‘Shut Up’ launches into ripping guitar and bass. When vocalist Jehnny Beth enters the fray the whole band is at work and it’s impossible not to take notice. The track is incredibly tight and well produced, every instrument critical and building on the constant grind of the song. The guitar lines are so dark and cutting, its high-pitched squealing an excellent take on Roland S. Howard’s anti-guitar hero style. This may be some of the best post-punk in thirty years.

There’s no doubt as to where Savages are coming from with Silence Yourself, the album’s roots are unabashedly post-punk/goth. The atmospheric darkness of the album draws largely from early 80’s groups like Bauhaus and Joy Division, while Beth’s vocals seem very much influenced by Siouxsie And The Banshees. It’s usually easy to be critical of music that lends itself so much to a certain time period, but not so with Savages. Unlike many who create records based on very surface aesthetics, there’s a feeling of genuine conviction in Savage’s music. And perhaps more to the point, it’s simply better than many of the ‘originals’.

Almost midway through the album, ‘Strife’ shows the first variation from the above. The song begins with a longish introduction of more free-styled industrial guitar noise but the chorus offers one of the albums most surprising moments. In an explosion of 70’s rock, Beth’s vocals, on top of heavily fuzzed power chords, resemble something like Nina Hagen in her more conventional moments. It’s the kind of sound often seen as the antithesis of post-punk’s edginess but it works really well here. The following track ‘Waiting For A Sign’ is one of the slower moments of the album, but certainly no less tense - the vocals powerful and operatic.

The album’s second half lacks nothing that the first has to offer. ‘She Will’, easily one of the record’s best and sharpest tracks, is matched by pointed lyrics - “She will enter the room/She will enter the bed…/Forcing the slut out”. You could swear that was Karen O singing in the chorus here – and if so, it might be the best you’ve heard from her since Fever To Tell. The drumming and guitar work in this track is not to be overlooked either. Next to the end of the album is the outstanding track ‘Husbands’, taken Savages’ two-track release last year. Perhaps a reference to another of Cassavetes’ films, this is fast-paced and raw, and easily one of the albums best tracks.

‘Marshall Dear’ rounds out an almost spotless album beautifully. With a piano and a crooked sax in the song’s line up, the instrumentation here is perfect, as is Beth’s soft vocals. Her last words “Can you feel it now/ Silence yourself”. If you didn’t, then take another listen.




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