Largely through the intense live shows that surrounded the release of their ferociously measured debut Silence Yourself, Savages have rightly earned their reputation as one of the most energetic and dynamic bands in the post-punk scene. Adore Life tries valiantly to match their status, but regrettably falls flat in comparison.
The awkward hesitancy found on “Adore” and “Slowing Down The World” reveals a noticeable shift in tone from that of the band's debut. The vitality that makes Savages so appealing is too often replaced by a softer blend of turmoil that isn’t as rewarding, nor a progression in sound. To be clear, Adore Life is a fine album, but prevented from being anything more by its tamer moments. At its best, it’s compelling, but at it’s worst, it’s utterly lifeless, and there’s simply no justification for that given the drive and tenacity that Savages possess as a group.
Fortunately, Jehnny Beth’s vocals are a welcome consistency, performed with passion and personality whilst retaining the intensity from the band's first record. There’s a charming simplicity to how Beth’s lyrical content deals with the complex nature of love and all its threatening avenues. Her delivery on “Exit” and “Surrender” benefits from the space that the ambiance offers her, and they’re two of the strongest tracks as a result.
Therein lies a key issue — too often the cold atmosphere squeezes the passion out of the vocals, and even the instrumentation itself. I wouldn’t be surprised if the entire album sounded magnificent in a live environment, but unfortunately the songs haven’t been given the appropriate treatment in the studio. Whilst Adore Life certainly won’t do Savages any harm, it’s likely to disappoint those who were so captivated by the menacing drive of “Husbands” and “Shut Up”. It’s good, but not on the same level as Silence Yourself.
7 out of 10
Adore Life was a surreal album to listen to. So many of the things you want to hear are there: solid songwriting; swagger and drive; an immensely charismatic frontwoman in Jehnny Beth. It should be really good, but I don’t think it is. The energy never really hits home — like punches in a dream, which even at their most vicious wind up feeling about as devastating as a gentle nudge. The album’s production really holds it back. Adore Life listens like a live sound that’s been clumsily bottled and sold as a studio recording. The work’s numerous strengths often get lost in the cold and frantic din of its overall character.
It’s no coincidence the best moments come in tracks that either slow things down or lean towards a cleaner tone, giving the band room to breathe. “Evil” and “Slowing Down the World” are quality tracks reminiscent of the very best ‘80s post-punk, while I suspect the brooding “Adore” will emerge as something of a Savages anthem. The album has some excellent moments, no question, but they are reprieves rather than the norm. A phenomenal breakdown two thirds of the way into “T.I.W.Y.G.”, for example, deserves to belong to a much better track than the one it’s in. There’s just too much white noise for a proper statement to be made.
Savages are clearly an extremely talented band, and I will make a point of listening to their debut album Silence Yourself after this, but I doubt there’ll be many return visits to Adore Life. I’m honestly quite impressed that a French-faced post-punk odyssey on lurve and lurst and adioring life can be so unconvincing.
6 out of 10
Savages’ latest release certainly feels different to their debut effort. With many commenting on their probable lack of longevity, it didn’t seem likely they’d make it to a second album. However, Savages return with Adore Life, with slightly more room to breathe and a clear, albeit unlikely, focus of love. There’s still a lot of remnants of Silence Yourself here, with the opening track, “The Answer”, providing a noisy, frantic, lurching stage for Jehnny Beth’s strong vocal, ‘Love is the answer,’ to ring out upon.
There’s certainly a great deal to like aside from the vocals too, with “Surrender” providing an intense fuzzball of distorted bass, while a shrill guitar riff sulks and wails through the track and “T.I.W.Y.G” giving drummer Fay Milton a chance to thrash her drums seemingly until only the snare remains.
Unfortunately, the album doesn’t leave me excited to return. I’d blame it on the tracks that leave more room to breathe and remove some of the vigour of the first album, but “Adore” is one of my favourite tracks from this release. The production too, while sometimes allowing for muddiness on tracks like “T.I.W.Y.G”, really doesn’t detract from the listening experience hugely. It does, however, feel as though in maturing and trying to move away from the short-lived band that everyone expected them to be, Savages have left behind some of the raw energy that propelled them so high in reviews of their debut.
Adore Life is a great album, but I am left feeling a desire to see them live for the ‘full fat’ version of the tracklist.
7 out of 10