Top positive review
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A much-needed reminder that music made by women doesn’t necessarily have to be pink and fluffy
on 7 April 2014
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Savages were the anti-Haim: an all-female post-punk band with little regard for pop credibility but wholeheartedly committed to espousing a fiery DIY punk attitude in everything they do. In a year which saw Pussy Riot languishing in a prison cell and proving that Vladimir Putin is almost certainly not a punk rocker, Savages’ Silence Yourself is Exhibit A in proving that there is nothing more rousing than a female front woman channeling Siouxsie Sioux, as the short-haired Jehnny Beth does here in a series of anguished yelps evocative of The Pop Group’s Y.
From the riot-inducing bassline to the shipwreck-summoning psiren of Jehnny Beth’s voice on ‘Shut Up’, Savages have a canny knack of creating the sort of music which feels completely familiar, sharing DNA with the likes of Public Image Ltd and even Joy Division in their love of ominous foreboding. The anthemic riffs on ‘She Will’ and ‘Husbands’ certainly sound like long-lost cousins to the Au Pairs and immediately give you the impression that Savages are musically far more capable of transcending post-punk, but this genre is clearly just a matter of providing uniformity for them.
Where Savages stand apart is that they feel utterly sincere in recalling the era of the ‘no wave’ movement, with Jehnny Beth in particular coming across like a quasi-feminist pariah who stands out starkly in today’s fickle musical landscape. Karen O is an obvious musical forebear, but Savages are anything but garage rock revivalists, especially since Silence Yourself makes many obvious overtures to atonality and dissosance in a way which the Yeah Yeah Yeahs never quite had the bravery to do.
In spite of this, the songs themselves shine through the discordance and are obviously very structured – these girls know what they’re doing, which is why the riffs are so potent – saddling Silence Yourself with an air of being rehearsed to the hilt. For this reason, any claim to be torchbearers of punk’s amateurish aesthetic is rather redundant because Savages are clearly better musicians than this album implies, particularly on tracks like ‘No Face’ which appears to suggest a Black Sabbath influence in its Tony Iommi-esque closure.
For all of their post-punk bluster, however, where Savages truly excel is in playing a distinctive attitude-laced brand of rock ‘n’ roll as a vehicle for an implied message of women’s lib. Clearly, this is more progressive than what Haim did, but Silence Yourself may not be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s noisy, angular and rather provocative, but it’s a very good listen, and a much-needed reminder that music made by women doesn’t necessarily have to be pink and fluffy to make an impact.