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Savages
Silence Yourself Luke Turner , May 3rd, 2013 02:58

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Inspiration, not innovation, is what I look for in Savages. One Quietus reader insists, every time we write about them, on commenting "post punk karaoke", ironically himself forgetting that movement's urge to say something new. Of course, it's perfectly easy - as it is with so many bands in this age of refinement - to pick apart Savages' influences on Silence Yourself, their thrilling debut album. But karaoke - the empty, facile regurgitation of other people's songs - this is not.

I'd take Savages, with their furious, high-velocity update of Joy Division, Simple Minds, British Sea Power, The Smashing Pumpkins, Einsturzende Neubauten, Bauhaus, The Birthday Party, Suede and so on over a thousand pallid boys who've managed, somehow, to divine an 'original' sound at the end of post-modernism. Why? Because Silence Yourself is the manifestation of a formidable spirit, a sense that everything they do is done with great purity of intent, and a brilliant sex, life and death album of a kind rarely seen these days. It also manages to capture the power of their live show in a surprising way. I saw Savages' first gig in January 2012, when they arrived as a last-minute support band for British Sea Power far more exciting, with more presence, more intelligence, than any indie band slogging their way up a dull career ladder to that point where suddenly adulation is accorded with a Brixton Academy headline slot. They gave their all then, and they give their all here, somehow distilling that live potency to record.

For starters, this is a very European record in feel, and not merely thanks to Jehnny Beth's French passport and curious vocal delivery. The depressing British trend for anti-intellectualism in pop is gloriously set ablaze by Savages' manifestos, noise excursions with side-project HTB and collaboration with Bo Ningen to create a "Sonic Simultaneous Poem", or introducing dancers, film and support sets by those within the Savages "family" to their concerts. Indeed, some of the naysayers who've sprung up in opposition to the fervent support that many demonstrate towards this band seem to imply that all this is calculated pretension, that perhaps after unveiling these elaborate and thoughtful ways of doing things, they all sit around chuckling a good LOL at a few more hoodwinked in. Such is the current fear, in the indie mainstream, of exercising the mind.

This hermetically sealed world around them is the cauldron in which their fire is nurtured and burns. Like many of the bands who inspired them, Savages fight against limitations as they carve out their songs. Gemma Thompson says she had to fundamentally rethink the way she played guitar after Jehnny Beth joined Savages, and steered it away from an experimental noise duo to songwriting band. Her contributions are incredibly impressive on the yearning, straining 'Waiting For A Sign', with the mood created by Faye Milton and Ayse Hassan's rhythm section acting as the base for dissonant guitar aerobics and an abstract vocal screech that recalls Diamanda Galas. It manages to pack into five minutes what Suede took ten to achieve on some of the songs from that second half of Dog Man Star.

The positioning of that track at the halfway point, followed by the gloomy, bell-clanging textures of instrumental 'Dead Nature' emphasises that Savages whole-heartedly subscribe to the album as a format: that's why the best tracks, 'Husbands' and 'Marshal Dear', are stuck right at the end of Side B. Interestingly, when I asked if there would be a different artwork for the digital release that might allow Jehnny Beth's manifesto on the sleeve to be easily read, the band said that the vinyl was their sole consideration.

Savages therefore seem to understand that the album still offers rock music's ideal format in which to explore challenging ideas. They're not alone in this, of course, as many of the old guard who've inspired them (especially Swans) have been proving over the past few years, but it's certainly rare among Savages' peers. So why is Silence Yourself a radical album that, as guitarist Gemma Thompson told Laura Snapes in Pitchfork, is "music to break shit and fuck on the floor to"?

Overdrive, distortion and Hasson and Milton's swinging rhythms ramp up the rather libidinous feel to Savages' music. Post-Britpop, UK guitar music has become rather prudish - with, say, Wild Beasts excepted - you wouldn't ever have gone to last decade's post punk revivalists Bloc Party or Futureheads for your kicks. America, meanwhile, seems to combine the asexual with a weird tats n' caps 'bro' mentality. Silence Yourself explores thematic concerns of honesty-of-the-self ideology and sexual power dynamics more commonly encountered in the Throbbing Gristle-inspired fringes of electronic and industrial music. However, those artists often manage to become a cliche of leathery lechery, fetishism and BDSM as codified and dull as the vanilla mainstream it claims to oppose.

Silence Yourself, by contrast explores these ideas with sophistication and bravery. When I interviewed the band for Q magazine recently, Beth told me that 'Hit Me' was inspired by porn actress Belladonna, and spoke of how she found pornography to be liberating - a not uncontroversial position. 'She Will' seems to be an ambiguous look at the pleasure and pain of the eroticism that comes with sexual infidelity and jealousy. Then on 'City's Full', she sings "I love the stretch marks on your thighs / I love the wrinkles around your eyes". It's one of the most charming lyrics of 2013, a bullshit-free summation of the honesty and complexity of true, rather than false idealised, love.

Ultimately, Savages are going to be a divisive band, but better to be hated and loved than trundle along with watery, anaemic music that says nothing no matter how original it might be. The openness that Savages display to art, sexuality and the idea that rock & roll can be intellectual, though, means that they're the sort of group who, like the Manics, Suede and British Sea Power, will become a way of life for some. In the essay that features on Silence Yourself's artwork, Beth writes "if the world would shut up just for a while perhaps we would start hearing the distant rhythm of an angry young tune". These are those tunes. Do what these good ladies tell you to do - silence yourself, listen to these songs. It's the least they - and you - deserve.

Ted
May 3, 2013 7:36am

My favorite thing about this band is how they sound EXACTLY like bands from 20 years ago I am comfortable with. Way to take a risk, Savages! So punk and different from the mainstream!

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Jon
May 3, 2013 8:13am

In reply to Ted:

They're girls who sound like Joy Division. I'm in.

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jk
May 3, 2013 9:45am

what i like about them is when you see them live it feels as if there's about to be a big fight/they've just had a big fight, or everything's going to go wrong/explode. it's very tense.

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Ernesto "che" Holness
May 3, 2013 10:28am

if this was a band of males playing boring 80s music nobody would care. theyre ok tho but its all a bit phoney + over dramatic. not surprised the lead singer is an actress either.

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May 3, 2013 10:40am

I can't think of ANY current band who aren't, to some extent, "derivative". Savages might prey on the music of the past - specifically 1978-1981 - but, despite the obvious influence thereof, they don't actually sound like any particular band or artist from that era. Nope, not even The Banshees, sorry trolls...

In the current musical climate, where most contemporary "indie"/"alt-rock" guitar music has more in common with Haircut 100 than Killing Joke, I reserve the right to get a little excited about Savages' dystopian stürm und drang.

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Huw
May 3, 2013 10:57am

Nice review, Luke. But along with you and Jez and other supporters I don't see anything new here, even if it is fun or whatever. Post punk warguably represented a paradigmatic shift. This is just content ticking all the boxes, and for that reason it's kind of doing the exact opposite. Don't mean to be bitchy but it does feel like it belongs in Q magazine (not that there's anything wrong with Q, but you get my drift).

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May 3, 2013 11:11am

ah but this is delivered with a fierceness and conviction that goes beyond mimicry (and I don't feel Silence Yourself is mimicry). bands these days who slavishly copy bands from the past always do it with a wink or a laugh up the sleeve, the "oh don't get upset, we're not serious, get over yourselves" attitude.whereas Savages seem dead serious and can only get better and better.

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May 3, 2013 11:17am

the album cover appear seven times on this webpage. seems keen.

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Pilton Grainge
May 3, 2013 11:33am

In reply to :

nah its delivered with a po faced over seriousness that can only come across as a joke when faced with the shallow derivitiveness(sp?) of the music

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May 3, 2013 11:38am

In reply to Pilton Grainge:

THANKS!! YOU'RE AMAAAZING!!

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Rooksby
May 3, 2013 11:39am

In reply to :

Yes, it's a bit much isn't it?

I'm looking forward to hearing it though - no streams for me, I need a hard copy. ;)

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surfling
May 3, 2013 1:46pm

i have to say i much prefer the Dark Horses album, which musically comes from the same background.
actually i'm quite surprised they didn't get the same attention that Savages are receiving.

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jk
May 3, 2013 1:50pm

In reply to surfling:

love dark horses!

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Dan
May 3, 2013 2:35pm

they sound like bush tetras, ha ha!

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julio
May 3, 2013 3:30pm

Yeah, they're derivative and pretentious. but hearing the album, you'll be up to the fact that they got a blind faith in themselves and put 100% of sweat on them. and about the girl being an actress before, good, as i always say, look and sound like a histeric prima donna or a falling drunk AIN'T GREAT THING WHEN YOU'RE a histeric prima donna or a falling drunk. the 'cult of earnest' who plague indie scene nowadays is as boring and irritating than the ubber presence and celebration of watered down soft country as a canvas for every bearded asshole ramblings. most of the complaining people say that something that means 'savages is not SO good'. well, this is saying that 'they're good, but ( fill with your prefer objection)', so, even the naysayers don't deny their quality...
my opinion is that they are a band who got thru HEAVY EARLY HYPE STAGE 1 with some grace and a solid record. if they gonna be the birdland or the manic street preachers of 2013, only the future will say, but for now they're a welcome release from an parade of new devendras, and for this i will be grateful.

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Apop
May 3, 2013 7:25pm

A spot on review and it's a good album, not a great album. And i'm happy about that, as odd as it may sound, 'cos they can get better. I wasn't prepared for how loud Ms. Thompson's guitar is at times, and it's angry, and it f*cking rocks. She's good...she's very very good.

Julio has the comment of the day regarding the "cult of earnest" with all these shite bearded indie bands. Maybe I'm more excited about this band 'cos momentarily they appear to be a hard-edged reply to the "nice" let's all get together and sing nice songs in nice little coffee shops with nice sing-along-lyrics and maybe we'll even whistle" f*cking bands.

These gals appear to be dead serious, and kinda pissed off and I LOVE that about them. Better than going to a show where the majority of those on the stage appear to be apologizing for their presence.

As for who they sound like? No matter, they're good, I'll drop 'Shut Up' inbetween 'Over the Wall' and 'Leaders of Men' in my playlist at home this evening and enjoy the hell out of it.

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Pavel
May 3, 2013 8:08pm

Why do we have to "hear something new?" Why do we have to chase after novelty? For the past 20 years, indie's anemic ideal of "innovation" has given us nothing but petty tinkering with the scraps of established sounds. "Cross-pollinating genres" my ass. Just because nobody's done it before doesn't make it new. It's empty formalism, rock music eating its own shit in slightly different proportions from one meal to the next.

What makes Savages such a strong band, what makes them original in a way that counts, is that they have CONTENT. What sets them apart isn't any particular combination of forms, it's the spirit that animates their music, and their clear, confident understanding of what that spirit is. And, as only genre bands remember how to do, they write good songs.

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todd
May 3, 2013 10:15pm

holy shit, how much have matador spent on promotion for this album?! savages EVERYWHERE!

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Jeff
May 3, 2013 10:49pm

"It's empty formalism, rock music eating its own shit in slightly different proportions from one meal to the next."

Scott Walker called. He wants his notebook back.

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Apop
May 4, 2013 6:40am

In reply to Jeff:

"The Jerk Store called and they're out of you". Seinfeld circa 1996.

So his comment is unoriginal and so is your response.

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Pavel
May 4, 2013 7:45am

In reply to Jeff:

Hell, I consider that high praise! Cheers!

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Jason
May 4, 2013 10:34am

Downloaded already and LP Vinyl already ordered.First time I saw Savages was at Hackney 2012, They were Awesome, they have blown away most of their audiences on both sides of Atlantic,watching them live is what as impressed most people,They have always played superb live shows and earned their excellent reviews and fans with these Awesome performances repeatedly,They have stage presence,because they are seriously talented musicians individually and who collectively are this unique band. 'savages rock'.They are different with their Songs,sounds,style and moods They engage with the audience,they are themselves.Savages! Real.

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Dennis
May 4, 2013 10:36am

The Violets did this better. Guess they weren't hip enough.

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May 4, 2013 11:52am

Guess you have to give the post-punk Creed a good review since adverts for them are paying your wages.

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Steve
May 4, 2013 11:53am

Forgotten by September.

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May 4, 2013 12:45pm

In reply to Dennis:

No, they just weren't as good. Too bad.

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May 4, 2013 12:46pm

In reply to Steve:

Bitter old queen wants his Modern English 12"s back.

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Steve
May 4, 2013 1:31pm

In reply to :

Is this really the forum for gay bashing? Modern English suck, I'm not bitter, and I'm not old. Savages are just another overhyped, cripplingly derivative saviour of authentic guitar rock.

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Jon
May 4, 2013 6:33pm

Those detractors bemoaning "nothing new here"....when and who did you last hear something truly new from? Of course it's derivative, all rock music is now, but so what? If those making those gripes would just listen to music rather then half-listen, half-stroke themselves over their record collections, they might find more joy in it...

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Steve
May 4, 2013 10:22pm

In reply to Jon:

ad hominem attacks are the last refuge of those with no actual defense. There is no completely original music, but there is plenty of music that is more original than this tripe. There's no difference between Savages and Creed. And before you say "well savages' songs are better" consider that you probably like post punk more than grunge, and that there are probably 1000x more people who would make the same claim of Creed. Both make calculated music with no reason to exist because the exact thing that they do has already been done, and done a million times better. It just so happens that Savages' influences are critic bait, and Creed's are relatively unloved.

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Edwin
May 5, 2013 12:05pm

In reply to Steve:

I was just checking out this months new releases and come across this quietus excellent review,Savages Silence yourself is a great album plus I like bands that cause waves,even better if opinions like yours and others cause a Tsunami release wise.But, Steve why have you got a bee in your bonnet about Savages band:Just maybe because the Savages are more post punk and current.Instead you make stupid remakes like Creed are unloved.Their not unloved ,They had their time,It's come and gone,Their history now!Most people know Creed is often recognized as one of the prominent acts of the post-grunge movement of the late 1990s and early 2000s and is one of the most commercially successful rock bands of all time. Billboard ranked Creed as the 18th best artist of the 2000s. So your just a outdated post-grunge movement jealous and bitter Troll.So stick that in your pipe.Stick to your post-grunge.

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Ben
May 5, 2013 7:28pm

Saw this lot live yesterday. They were pretty awful to be honest, although I think the sound was causing them issues.

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Steve
May 5, 2013 10:09pm

In reply to Edwin:

I don't like Creed. In fact, I don't enjoy one of their songs even a smidge. I don't like post-grunge. Creed's influences are unloved by critics, whereas Savages' influences are. They are guilty of the same artistic crime though, that being not having a vision of their own. Both bands are trying to be something else, which is the definition of pretension. I am not jealous and bitter, I just thing far too much is being made of a generic post-punk effort.

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May 5, 2013 10:33pm

"It manages to pack into five minutes what Suede took ten to achieve on some of the songs from that second half of Dog Man Star."

What exactly are these 10 minute songs on the second half of dog man star?

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BRETT ANDERSON'S BUTT PLUG
May 5, 2013 11:55pm

In reply to :

the asphalt world ?

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jeffort23
May 6, 2013 4:49am

Bruising, iconic, and scarily good.
http://ludditestereo.com/2013/05/05/silence-yourself-savages-album-review/

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john p.
May 6, 2013 12:00pm

Why not let these fine young ladies tell us about their influences themselves... in a Savages' Bakers' Dozen.

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Juan
May 6, 2013 12:23pm

post-punk karaoke

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Michael
May 6, 2013 3:11pm

Brilliant debut Album, hype being completely justified.

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Reggie P
May 6, 2013 6:53pm

'Inspiration, not innovation, is what I look for in Savages.' I guess you've got to look for something, eh, Luke? You're doing a good job of playing the game.

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Ivor Cuntler
May 6, 2013 7:54pm

Luke, the Savages are fucking garbage. If people want to 'empathize' because they think it'll get them laid, with whomever, fine but spare us the fashion first horseshit. Some of you goddamn Limeys have enough to answer for in that regard already, though it doesn't mean you should hype insipid 'Americana' garbage like Iron & Wine either.

And yeah, if THIS is the fucking 'best' post-punk whatever can come up, just let the smelly dingo die already. You have how many Benjamin Britten operas to delve into for starters, ALL of which are far gutsier, funny and harrowing by turn than these pastey-ass sepia-tone simps.

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May 6, 2013 7:55pm

"Bravery" Please explain further, Luke, what "brave" about this predictable dork critic cock stroking.

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May 6, 2013 7:59pm

In reply to Pavel:

"indie" is Gaelic for dogshit. in the wide world of sound, this is what some of you settle for? pathetic, when there's Alasdair Roberts on one side, Autechre the other and a deliriously broad spectrum non-vomit inducing forms of music, art, theater etc everywhere. Don't let the Savages "stylist" kick you in the fanny on the way out though.

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Pavel
May 6, 2013 10:47pm

In reply to :

Oh I agree, fuck indie. While they're getting marketed to indie people, Savages are basically a goth band. It's nice to see something with some spine and power getting noticed for a change.

But choosing between this and Autechre or Roberts? What a strange false dichotomy! I'm down with all 3. And so far as I know neither of those artists is making music remotely comparable to this. If what you mean is you don't like repetitive, aggressive guitar music, then cool, don't go see Savages. Or do, and vomit. That'd be pretty cool.

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Austy
May 6, 2013 11:33pm

I haven't heard a lick of this yet.. But this fight reminds me of the uproar around a little band called Elastica back in the day.. And I thought their debut was better than Pink Flag.. :)

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Mattias
May 7, 2013 12:16am

"You have how many Benjamin Britten operas to delve into for starters, ALL of which are far gutsier, funny and harrowing by turn than these pastey-ass sepia-tone simps."

"when there's Alasdair Roberts on one side, Autechre the other and a deliriously broad spectrum non-vomit inducing forms of music, art, theater etc everywhere."

Each of which, if broadly praised, would be quickly dismissed by the likes of you. Poseur schmucks. The minute your best friend's rock/opera/ballet hybrid (the greatest in the world no one's heard of, right?) started actually selling tickets you'd start dismissing it. You're laughable. By the way, what part of "extra hot" don't you understand about how I like my latte? Maybe take a few extra minutes to do it right before running off to rehearsal next time.

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May 7, 2013 3:06am

In reply to Austy :

"The Slider" alone >>>>> Wire's entire fucking career, so we're not that far off after all, though in this case, it's moron Americans who were more influenced by Wire than the Limey fashionistas.

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Wilson Phillips
May 7, 2013 3:46am

Blah blah blah...insert band which hasn't sold too many records (owning one of these records not necessary). Blah blah blah...make latte for customer not as cool as me. Blah blah blah...google artist who hasn't gotten too much mainstream press attention. Blah blah blah...take out trash from coffee shop.

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May 7, 2013 4:34am

In reply to Wilson Phillips:

Wow. a third rate Limey version of Toys Went Berserk, the derivative Australian band who beat these dipshits to the style 20 years ago... In fact, Toys Went Berserk were supposed to be on Matador back then, though I don't know what happened...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzhPjWEU-ug

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Wilson Phillips
May 7, 2013 5:24am

In reply to :

Thanks for reinforcing my point, genius. You actually shared a link to a band you consider 3rd rate. Damn, and I thought I was bored.

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Wilson Phillips
May 7, 2013 5:35am

In reply to :

My apologies my man, got that wrong, you don't consider the 'Toys' band 3rd rate, just derivative. Sorry, missed that through my laughter at you reinforcing the pretentiousness i was pointing out above. Thanks for the laughs mate, hope your buddy's greatest unknown band doesn't sell any records, don't want them to lose you as a fan.

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Woovee
May 7, 2013 10:58am

This sounds like a mix between early Siouxsie and the Banshees-era and Joy Division with a twist of PiL.
It's quite strange to not see Siouxsie mentionned in this review: the connection is patent.

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Graeme Garden
May 7, 2013 11:44am

This is a phenomenally embarrassing review from one of the biggest professional arselickers in the entire known universe. This is up there with the vaunting of Emile Sande as one of the low points of internet journalism. Thank christ for Scott Creney's review on Collapse Board.

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Luke Turner
May 7, 2013 1:38pm

In reply to Graeme Garden:

Much as I love rimming, I've never been paid for it x

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Chris
May 7, 2013 1:50pm

Other bands did this a whole lot better 30 years ago. Not one shred of an original thought, and all the songs sound the same.
I'm sure the kidz will love it.

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Sony
May 8, 2013 12:43am

A interesting band.It's a really exciting debut album,with a slick black and white album cover,This band 'Savages' would be really cool as post punk Vampires in a movie!.

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May 8, 2013 11:10am

In reply to Juan:

Much like opinion karaoke

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Chad
May 8, 2013 4:29pm

In reply to Luke Turner:

I see what you did there.

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Jason Parkes
May 9, 2013 12:38pm

I wanted to like them when I saw them last year and listened to the album....but they don't transcend their quite obvious influences. It's not a crime and very possible they may go on to develop and trascend...but at present they are more like the slew of punk bands who took obvious cues, rather than post-punk which was always moving forwards.

They have good taste, e.g. a reference to John Cassevetes...though isn't this hip-reference already fairly common after Fugazi, American Music Club, The Hold Steady etc? You just end up with everyone having great taste, which possibly isn't that healthy an idea.

The hook of 'Husbands' I thought was hilarious: horses, horses, horses. The worst Patti Smith rip-off since PJ Harvey's one about "Little Italy" (though that might have been a pizza place in Somerset). Another track I heard on Marc Riley last year just sounded like early Banshees' playing the complete tune of 'Colony' by Joy Division. It doesn't sound as forward thinking as Babes in Toyland....

So at the moment they might be the female equivalent of Interpol or one of those post-post-punk bands who seemed less interesting as post-punk stuff got flagged up by Jon Savage and Simon Reynolds and got reissued en-masse.

& the marketing is almost as annoying as that of Vampire Weekend...

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Mark Pringle
May 9, 2013 12:55pm

An interesting list of influences you mention there, Luke. Shame you failed to mention that they are, essentially, a Siouxsie & The Banshees tribute act, about as original as Bjorn Again.

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D. Basement
May 10, 2013 10:40am

In reply to Mark Pringle:

Your opinion is important to us.

Please hold the line, an operative will be with you shortly.

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D. Basement
May 10, 2013 10:41am

In reply to Juan:

Is your comment a cover version?

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Hardy
May 14, 2013 7:53pm

Was expecting more to be honest. Will give it another couple of spins, but was underwhelmed on the first pass, which is a shame.

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