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LIVE REPORT: Savages
Luke Turner , May 30th, 2012 07:19

A bomb on the Shacklewell Arms last night would have wiped out the UK independent music business. But Savages seem to be taking the attention in their stride, says Luke Turner. Photo by Joseph Tovey Frost

I have always wanted to see Daniel Miller (Mute), Martin Mills (Beggars) and Geoff Travis (Rough Trade) in the same room together. I was a bit suspicious that they might not actually exist as individual human beings, but were instead peculiar post-war androids developed by sinister survivor future weapons scientists, spirited out of Germany to create a means of destabilising potentially revolutionary youth via the creation of a distraction, in the form of independent music. But no, they are all present and correct (along with the likes of Heavenly) at this Tuesday night gig by Savages. These aren't just the chattering A&R hyenas, but the big dudes themselves.

Full disclaimer: though The Quietus and our friends at The Stool Pigeon had our names to this event, we were not doing it to see a penny out of it. Credit is due to our man Andy Inglis of the 5000 promoters, who managed to keep the sea of people demanding entry at bay so the venue was never as unpleasantly packed as it normally would be on such a night.

There is clearly an awful lot of pressure on this young group, but it's to their credit that tonight it barely shows. There are of course a lot of voices clamouring that the attention is too much too soon, asking what they have done to deserve it, crying foul and muttering about Siouxie & The Banshees. Watching them, it's impossible not to think of the time I first saw them at their very first gig... What marks Savages out is this intense spirit, a four-way inventive tension. They haven't lost an iota of that - if anything it's increased since then.

Key to this is how much every single member of Savages brings to the pot. Ten years ago groups like Erase Errata, Numbers and The Gossip proved how much better at the drums women can be than men, delivering their energy and dance imperative through swing. When Faye Milton's tom-heavy pattern are combined with the juddering dub n'disco basslines of Ayse Hasan, it's made abundantly clear what a rock solid foundation Savages are blessed with. Then over the top of that, the ferocious four-b mixture of Bernard Butler and Blixa Bargeld deployed by Gemma Thompson that acts as such a foil with Jehnny Beth's vocals. Those Siouxie comparisons are lazy and probably rather sexist: instead, I'm hearing the dynamics of a higher Nick Cave, with all the tension and range that that implies. It's all very Bowie and Ronson, Morrissey and Marr, Anderson and Butler.

The second key to Savages' ability to send the walls of racket out into the faces of the music businessmen, is how well they do sex. It's a very rare group that understands and manages to convey how sexuality is never black and white, but that the grey areas, gender confusion and dominant-to-sub dynamic is where the sparks come flying from, and where we can be at our most natural and human. One track, which has the sort of louche energy last heard on Suede's finest b-sides, sees Jehn singing "you introduce me to different kinds of lovers", as if a romantic billet-doux that embraces polygamy.

The two tracks from their forthcoming AA side single, 'Husbands' and 'Flying To Berlin' sound crackling and fierce. Rarely for one of these industry venue gut-busters, people are dancing. As is customary with these Savages gigs, there's a new song played. Called 'No Face', it begins with a fierce pugilistic bout between guitar and bass, has a stuttering bit, an efficient climax and then squalling finish.

Savages combine all the best bits of all your favourite dark, louche bands - Suede, Einsturzende Neubauten, Bauhaus, Smashing Pumpkins, Echo & The Bunnymen, Simple Minds, Joy Division, The Birthday Party and the Bad Seeds - and twist out of them an astonishing freshness, presence and spirit all of their very own - and very, very pop too. Over there, I'm pretty sure Geoff Travis' specs are having a wiggle. Your next chance to see Savages play live is at Field Day this Saturday, June 2nd, and then supporting O Children at Hoxton Bar & Kitchen on June 7th.

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