Music journalism hasn’t been very kind to Savages. As a band who make their influences known to their audience in earnest, being a band of four women (“Holy Shit! W-w-w-women!”, I hear you exclaim) and a general penchant for a dark or “icy” atmosphere to their music has rendered most reviews of the band rather unanimous and faceless. Pretty much every review reads as thus:
Pretentious drivel > Joy Division > ‘Angular’ riffs > Women > Gothic > ‘Tight’ rhythms > Cult status > Feminism > Ian Curtis > Landan > Androgynous > Noir > Siouxsie Sioux > Liquorice All Sorts
So I’m going to try something daring and attempt to avoid all of the above trappings.
First things first, if you haven’t had a chance to listen to the band’s debut, Silence Yourself, I would urge that you do as soon as possible. It’s a stunning debut full of promise and accomplishment and without it their set would have been nothing. It’s one of the best albums of the year so far and certainly the strongest debut of the year.
The atmosphere at the Bodega was pure captivation, an audience made-up of a cross section of middle-aged, faded Unknown Pleasures t-shirt wearing retired punks and fresh faced, nostalgia junkies. The band took to the stage with little fanfare, there was a murmur of introduction and then the band started to play – pretty much uninterrupted – for the entirety of their 45 minute set. Particular highpoints were lead singles ‘She Will’ and ‘Husbands’, both succeeding to inject the perfect blend of energy with originality.
Musically, Savages bare a strong influence from American experimental rock outfits like Sonic Youth and Fugazi, particularly Fugazi. Seeing songs like ‘Waiting on a Sign’ and ‘Strife’ performed live evoked memories of Fugazi’s Instrument documentary. However, it’s not so much the sound as the mentality which leads me to compare Savages to the above bands. Their unique and inventive take on the punk framework – toying with feedback, using simple but effective bass and drum lines, distinct and powerful vocals – captures the spirit of these acts (and indeed those the band are more often compared to).
Overall, there’s an indefinable CBGB’s-ness to their live show; it’s both undeveloped but innovative, pure yet considered, seasoned and still exciting. Everyone seems to write about Savages as if they are mimicking or mirroring the acts they are compared to, but in reality there are more like a band of that time. They could easily sit on a rosta with the likes of Fugazi, Wire or even (whispers) Joy Division. Not because they sound like these bands, but because they sound like contemporaries of these bands.
By pointing out the shortcomings of most Savages reviews, I wanted to point out that Savages are very much a unique band and were capable of rising above the neat cliche that they have been reduced to. “That was probably the best gig the Bodega will ever see” one patron said, and I have to admit I wholeheartedly agree. It will probably be the last time Nottingham will see the band in such an intimate setting and for everyone there this gig did buy into one rock cliche. It felt like we were witnessing the beginnings of a very promising career.