Savages are a band that take their music very seriously. You can hear it in the intensity of their music and see it in the stark monochrome of their album covers (and their wardrobes). A common criticism is that they come across as lacking in warmth, that the music is all austere post-punk without much personal feeling in it. On Adore Life, the band seem keen to play with, if not dismantle, this reputation.
The band have described the album as being "about love", and the title proclaims it to be about the adoration of life – but the music reveals that while this might signal a deepening of emotion, it doesn’t mean they’ve lightened up any. ‘Adore’ is representative of the general mood, a sombre, slowly building piece that belies the apparently optimistic message of the lyrics while lending them a bizarre urgency. The final minute sees singer Jehnny Beth using her upper vocal range, as she so rarely does, to startling effect as she repeats "I adore life" over the band’s wall of noise.
‘Adore’ is representative of the general mood, a sombre, slowly building piece that belies the apparently optimistic message of the lyrics while lending them a bizarre urgency
There’s also, of course, some roaring punk. ‘The Answer’ is ferocious from start to finish, again adding percussive urgency to lyrics about the immediacy of love and life (and there’s a great guitar solo too). ‘Sad Person’ conversely, is a much more upbeat affair than you might assume from the title, and has an absolutely fantastic climax with soaring guitars scoring an emotion-laden reprise of the chorus. ‘T.I.W.Y.G.’ deploys blastbeat intensity throughout, and finale ‘Mechanics’ goes to the opposite extreme, a slow ballad collapsing into free noise (in very Swans-esque fashion) before the end.
This makes the moments that don’t quite work all the more jarring, of course – the oddly misused electronics of ‘Surrender’, or the affected sleaziness of ‘Slowing Down the World’ (which works about half the time). But when Savages manage to properly capture a genuine sense of pathos, as they so frequently do on Adore Life, it’s absolutely inimitable.