The Greek film Dogtooth frames the world outside home as a place that will tear one apart. Kittens become imagined as bloodthirsty creatures, the kind that are purposely avoided and, when necessary, slaughtered with garden shears. In essence, the world beyond one’s reach becomes the forbidden fruit of knowledge.
Savages‘ Adore Life functions in a similar way, but pelting love as the world that’s so cruel and unkind. Love doesn’t bring you to California to have fun, nor does it attend to the broken nature of one’s soul. Compassion within this London band is fraught, making heart-shaped boxes fuel the fires of addiction.
Patience, kindness, and a host of other virtues are lost in order to create a necessarily dark patch of grey within the walls of Savages’ rooms. The Post-Punk that this band claims to produce is unlike that which stabilizes modern greats like Protomartyr. Instead of more Joy Division-inspired pacing, Savages play their strings with gritted teeth, not waiting for something, but instead pushing through–rioting. Adore Life is flexible in its harsh reality: those wanting a background beat fitting for a stroll through nightclub scenes will find the record as appealing as those that want to produce think pieces on its lyrics. Those looking for something inspiring, however, will lose their footing on both subject matter and the environments produced. You won’t leave the album feeling dirty, but you’ll unconsciously want to brush your teeth.
The words “shut up” still ring true in Adore Life as they had in Silence Yourself, but in this case, with more ravaging strings. Bass work is especially highlighted as the element that drives the band to enthrall, to bring one to their knees. “Evil” is punctuated by its gothic electric guitar and stalking bassline, clearing the room of all moral good. “Sad Person” instead makes the bass drive like it’s finished kidnapping on a honey trap mission.”Adore” and “When In Love” secretly dig for the deepest lows while singer Jehnny Beth announces her words Joan Baez style to the world. Electric guitars do have their high points with their brilliant riffs–so, too, do the punching drums (“Evil”)–but the bass guitar is what truly becomes Beth’s watchdog, her cerberus.
Though love is an ever-present theme in the album, what differentiates Savages from Top 40 radio and the ideas held in 69 Love Songs is the corrupting nature of love, of sex, and how the four-letter word is like an alien tool mankind is not ready for yet. Savages are like Wax Idols minus the Madonna shtick. Though the small picture of love between so-called “partners” is tuned to the most, tracks like “Adore” and “Evil” set to combat a bigger, existential picture. Almost seeming like she has a gun to her head, Beth asks “Is it human to adore life?” as if this philosophizing question settles everything. The gravity between rebellion and corruption within this query is heavy-hitting, so, too, is the political nature of “Evil.” Brainwashing via love is what can be found in the livelier “Slowing Down The World,” while the love-sex conceptualization in “Sad Person” treats embraces like cocaine in a non-contrived way.
Love is so many things compact into one four-letter word. The concepts of good and evil are of the same ilk, trickster-like in the sense that they are amorphous. “T.I.W.Y.G.” ultimately spits out its blood, sharing the vision that you’ll fight for the theme Beth fights for, whether it’s because the sex is worth it or because the rush elicits something more. When the not-so great closer “Mechanics” claims that love will stand the test of time, the idea becomes scary. Valentine’s Day becomes much darker knowing that the boogeyman is now a word dressed in either handsome attire or pretty skirts.
Dustin Ragucos is a writer of things fictional, poetic, and musical. His main loves include Death Grips and Indie music. Dustin’s blog is host to a weekly blurb about albums old and new.