Title: Adore Life
Release Date: January 22, 2016
Label: Matador Records
Savages arrived fully formed well before they released their debut album, Silence Yourself, in 2013. Before the LP came out, their first single “Husbands” already established the post-punk band’s M.O: ferociously stern, aggressively direct and unafraid to set fire to the status quo. Their live-for-TV performance of the song on Later with Jools Holland still sticks to show their dead-serious attitude. All four are locked in their respective instruments, especially frontwoman Jehnny Beth, who gives the camera a burning thousand-yard stare.
Their follow-up record, Adore Life, sees the band loosening up. The harsh, brash punk sound still remains, but Savages shake off their tunnel vision to let the music wander into new territory. The change can be heard in the rhythm sections of “Evil” and “Slowing Down the World.” Drummer Fay Milton provides a nimble shuffle for the former song, and bassist Ayse Hassan similarly lends the latter a hook with her mellow bass line. Guitarist Gemma Thompson offers memorable riffs as well — “The Answer” and “Surrender” comes to mind — though the rhythmic spine sounds more pronounced this time around.
What Savages change most is their plan of attack. The best hooks from Beth in Adore Life continue to focus on the power of repetition to convey intense urgency. She sings the titular phrase of “I Need Something New” through gritted teeth, amping up her frustration. The style especially comes across in “Adore Life” where she continuously screams “I adore life” as if she’s convincing herself to accept it as truth.
As loud as she delivers her lyrics, Beth keeps her words to herself instead of exerting her feelings outward as she did in Silence Yourself. Adore Life instead play as her internal conversations where she questions the idea of love, which she observes as a self-damaging obsession. She compares the blood-boiling feeling as mania in “When in Love,” turning a head-over-heels type of passion into one fatal attraction. “Next time I’m in your neighborhood, I might be knocking at your door/ because this is love,” she sings toward the end. Her conclusion can be summed up from her claim made in “Sad Person”: “love is a disease.”
Coming from an album where she put on a stone-cold serious persona, it’s alarming to find Beth so open and emotionally vulnerable. Whereas she once commanded with conviction, she’s now uncertain about the world around her. She hasn’t lost her touch; her willingness to be transparent with her pain is a powerful use of voice in itself. Sometimes, her script runs a little too casual. “Sad Person” runs on like a stream of consciousness — a bumpy form of delivery by a songwriter known for brevity. But it’s only natural for the lyrics to flow in such a way in an album which serves as an internal monologue. Savages have always been about the raw instincts first. Adore Life is no different.