Savages ramp up their intensity on their superb second album

Annie Zaleski

Four stars

Savages Adore Life

In 2013, Savages stormed out of London like a blast from the post-punk past, courtesy of a gray-scale aesthetic, thorny electric guitar abrasions and frontwoman Jehnny Beth’s shards-of-glass vocals. Debut LP Silence Yourself, however, commanded attention by being thoroughly immersed in contemporary urgency, even as it recalled greats such as The Pop Group, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Joy Division.

Savages sound even more in-your-face on second album Adore Life, courtesy of more nuanced arrangements and instrumentation, and Anders Trentemøller’s deft mixing approach. Songs like the minor-key cauldron-bubble “Slowing Down the World” and the yelping “I Need Something New” emphasize Ayse Hassan’s formidable bass, while “Surrender” contrasts Beth’s wailing, clipped vocals with stormy Gemma Thompson guitars. The record is also notable for its sudden curveballs: Beth’s unexpected vocal flip upward for the line, “Don’t try to change the way your parents did it,” on the religion-scorning “Evil”; the abrupt key change and drummer Fay Milton’s ferocity surge in “The Answer”; and the way “Sad Person” shifts between snotty ’77 punk and a melodic post-punk chorus.

Still, overall Adore Life prizes restraint as much as noise, a shift most evident on sparse highlight “Adore.” The song de-emphasizes its needling guitar rumbles and springy bass and instead pushes Beth to the forefront, where she channels the elegant, poetic vocal timbre and erudite philosophizing of Patti Smith. That same questioning nature permeates the rest of Adore Life’s lyrics, which are primarily concerned with how one singular experience or state of being can have multiple perspectives and interpretations. But ambiguity isn’t a detriment to Savages—in fact, it’s what makes Adore Life so compelling.

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