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Les Savy Fav
Root For Ruin John Calvert , August 9th, 2010 11:24

Call it a leap, but for some reason there's something of Falkor the Luck Dragon to Brooklyn joy-punkers Les Savy Fav. That's right, that big goober-looking canine from The Never Ending Story who you mistook as your dad for a week in 1984. Since forming in the mid-90s they've matched booming voice and bad breath in their meathead, punk rockin' (yet never indignant) outlandishness, with the hint of danger - in the post-punk-informed tenets of splintering guitar, crooked pacing and unstable foundations. They're weird, grimacing, powerful and lovably without pretence, and on their latest entry present a well-conditioned celebration of these many glories.

Les Savy Fav have always had a somewhat make-believe presence. Yet with this in mind, and considering they’re a band with deeply cryptic lyrical content, they seem to elicit a personal connection. Somehow every time Tim Harrington exults that it's "we" who have triumphed and its "we" who will escape, hearts melt in righteous bonhomie. Whether it's doing something cool with a bone in Bronze Age arcadia or frenching with a horse, we were there. In the sleepy beasts’ kind old eyes and wizened humour, your poor but happy local punk veteran shines through, showing us tragic monsters how not to take life too seriously. That's called having a satisfied mind, an ancillary benefit to doing what you love.

Despite their debut 3/5 being classified as art-punk - as in difficult and detached - Les Savy Fav's output is really just the surrealistic racket of a troupe of grounded and defiantly human New Yorkers who value their day-jobs as much as the mischievous adventures afforded to them by their art.

Instead of worrying about prevailing trends or the words of their detractors, Les Savy Fav prefer to just go with their own flow and with Root For Ruin have turned in a markedly complete new chapter. While it’s not career-best record, it is arguably their most melodically solid and focussed. On opener 'Appetites' - as on Lets Stay Friends' 'Pots and Pans' - they begin by taking stock, stating their intentions and basically dragging their old bones out into the arena for another existential scrap. "We've still got our appetites" screams Harrington, setting a carnal leitmotif that rejects the wilfully sexless tradition of indie rock. LSF intermingle the dirty-talk with a poetic weariness which, when teamed with the good-natured romps, makes you think of that old couple who still keep the bed springs creaking.

At times listening to Les Savy Fav it feels as if that big luck dragon will spirit you over moon-flavoured clouds in a winsome flight of philosophical contemplation – a case in point would be the simply transcendent 'What Would Wolves Do' from Lets Stay Friends. It’s this side to the band that defines Root For Ruin, most especially in the shining choruses and emolliating guitar parts of 'Sleepless In Silverlake', 'High And Unhinged' and album highlight 'Let’s Get Out Of Here'. The bite, the bark and the post-hardcore influences take a back seat to euphoria, even at points verging on the everyman trad of The Hold Steady, but don't let that put you off.

While Harrington produces his most omnivorous vocal performance yet - giving us Jello Biafra, Rivers Cuomo via a selection of primal hollers and a lot of singing - the rest of the band, and notably the great Seth Jabour, are less conspicuous than on Lets Stay Friends, the arrangement less braided. It's for the greater good of focusing on a barreling directness - this is a record flush with vocal hooks, shades of Cheap Trick and a little early Weezer without the crunch. Despite the front man’s admittance he's "going cynical" on the candidly downbeat 'Dear Crutches', Les Savy Fav know they owe their recent success, and perhaps their future, in giving their live audiences a grand old time.

Of course there's plenty of room for disarray on the likes of craven cage-rattlers like 'Excess Energies' and 'Calm Down', or the sing-along 'Lips'n'Stuff', but they're the weakest tracks by some measure. Having expelled libidinous evil, Les Savy Fav finish with fireworks in the shape of 'Clear Fluids'... and on the good times go.

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