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Posted on May 8th, 2013 (8:29 am) by Ryan French

Savages, an all female post-punk rock quartet based in London with ties to Western France, have released their debut album after a series of singles. I hope you like SEX and DRUGS and ROCK and ROLL. Sex sells. Go ask the publisher of Fifty Shades of Grey or any Hollywood actress clinging to her youth by a trail of Botox needles and hair dye. But sex sells in a very specific way – when it creates curiosity or flaunts a taught young body from a billboard. Sexual affirmation on the other hand...well, how long has the national news media been ping-ponging around in a cacophony of public officials’ sound bites who’d like to see the resurgence of the chastity belt? The sexual majority doesn't like to hear much about their neighbors' bedroom quirks and fetishes and, like it or not, straight men, as a demographic, still have a pretty tight grip (zing) on what the media portrays the sexual majority to be. And Savages just decided to tell everyone what they think about that.

You don’t even need to listen to Silence Yourself to realize that you’re about to hear a band who will amuse you with coy wordplay. Just naming their album Silence Yourself sums up the strangely sincere irony that runs throughout the lyrics in the Savages’ debut. Lead singer Jehnny Beth (born Camille Berthomier) enticingly howls out on “Shut Up,” the record’s first track, “if you tell me to shut up I should leave now.” And this is a perfect example of the golden nugget of truth that Savages are trying to pan out of society’s sluice box. The band’s first statement on an album with a name telling fans to be quiet is that if you tell them to be noiseless they’ll take off – a clever idea that, coupled with Savages’ other lyrical content, helps you understand the point the band is making about the double standards they see around them.

Although a recent cover story discusses the group’s love of David Bowie, I never got the sense that they were interested in gender-bending and crashing societies party about what women need to be doing and what they don’t need to be doing the way Bowie did in his early days. On Silence what you hear is women who are proud of being women – not women trying to create transgressive art to shock the mainstream. Savages don’t come off as trying to twist the knickers of their parent’s generation. The band wails about the lives they have already and are going to continue to have “shock value” be damned and I think this makes their lyrics all the more powerful.

Savages, like Dum Dum Girls, don’t make any attempts to hide who is influencing their style of music. Beth’s vocal style is an outrageously good combination of Patti Smith and Ann Smith from Heart (if the only song she ever sang was “Barricuda”). Gemma Thompson’s guitar rattles with distortion like she took notes from My Bloody Valentine’s “Only Shallow” all the way through the recording sessions for Silence working back and fourth in a powerful competition with Ayse Hasson’s contributions on bass for the whole album. “Strife” leads in with Faye Milton on drums followed after a few bars by Hassan coming in to bring attention to the dark assertiveness of the song.

Savages harken back to the bands that came before them without giving you the feeling that they were at a loss for making music any other way – more of an homage to bands they like than a derivative reproduction. This type of style always brings up the question of originality. Here, the group creates a niche for itself among its heroes without stomping on their toes. Savages aren’t breaking into new territory the way Deerhunter is on Monomania or the way Dirty Projectors did by Swing Lo Magellan but those groups had plenty of practice.

As a debut, Silence Yourself accomplishes a rare feat. It shows off the skill of its creators, their lyrical intelligence, and their influences while staying close enough to those influences to have an established fan base hoping for a band to come into their ears. Savages leave the listener with a sense of optimism about where they’re going. This album lays a foundation for the band to build a long, successful, and satisfying career.

Track List:
1. Shut Up
2. I Am Here
3. City's Full
4. Strife
5. Waiting for a Sign
6. Dead Nature
7. She Will
8. No Face
9. Hit Me
10. Husbands
11. Marshal Dear

Savages, Silence Yourself, Matador
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

79 / 100
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