After finishing an extensive tour last April, Savages returned to the studio to spend six months in isolation writing their brand new album, the follow up to their Barclaycard Mercury Prize nominated debut ‘Silence Yourself’. Yet rather than rush to release it, the band decided at the end of last year to introduce their new music to its natural habitat instead so decamped en masse to New York. They have been living there since, playing a series of small club shows in the city to hone their new material before its release. Having always written for the stage, the band say they “believe in movement initiating sound as well as sound initiating movement”.
Singer Jehnny Beth comes on modestly enough. “Hi. You guys alright?” she says in her tiny, unassuming voice. “We’re Savages”.
Then they play I Am Here, and everything comes close to losing control already. And here they are.
And here are the angry, moshing youth I couldn’t find earlier at Thurston Moore. Hello Angry Moshing Youth! It’s so nice to finally see you!
Well, as the token adult in this group I can testify that the ADHD contingent do, at least, have some taste after all.
It’s only guitars, bass, drums and attitude. There are a couple of bands on this line-up who’re really popular and who I just don’t like. It’s not that they’re doing anything “wrong”. They’re playing their guitars, bass and drums, and they have an amount of attitude. I just … I feel like I’ve heard it before.
Savages aren’t like that. Savages are doing the same guitar/bass/drum/attitude trick as all the others, but Savages look like a composed but furious tiger amongst startled fluffy ducklings. Savages make me want to dance and sing and scream and fight and go and punch a Tory to death.
Savages are nothing but noise; nothing but attitude. And it’s perfect. Savages f**king rock.
Beth stalks the stage like a predator. She moves like a snake. The other band members stay as still as they can, but it’s hard when they’re making a sound like this. Nobody smiles. This is serious. Apart from me that is; I’m smiling a lot.
Savages use extremely simple language to communicate directly with the animalistic part of our brains. You don’t need to think about the hidden subtext of song titles like Shut up, She Will, or Hit Me.
Jehnny Beth effortlessly embodies the spirit of rock’n’roll. Watching her I’m thinking that this must be what people were feeling when they first saw Jim Morrison. I am stunned. I am in awe, in love, in thrall. This is how cults get started.
And then she joins the crowd, rising up before us like a python from a basket. Good idea JB. That’s how you get some proper dancing. She looks like she wants to kill us and eat our corpses. Finally, for the first and only time this weekend, I feel unsafe.
At one point a guy in the mosh pit starts doing strange breakdancing moves, which starts a trend. Soon there’s a circular arena of young people bobbing and swaying in their own, spontaneously-created ritual, while Beth stands atop them, one hand in the air, supreme, god-like.
Animalistic. We are animals. All I can taste is the dust kicked up into the air, in my eyes, in my throat. This is worship, and I have found my new religion.
This was easily the highlight of the festival for me but, to be clear, I’m aware that someone twenty feet away from me might have had a different experience. However, I don’t think anyone would disagree with my awe at Savages’ punk-rock credentials.
Really, if you get a chance to see this band live, sell whatever you need to sell to get there, get down the front, make sure you’ve got nothing valuable with you (because you will lose it), and just let them take you to their brave new world.
The final song, in keeping with the traditions and tenets of our new faith, is called “Fuckers“. The lyrics are: “Don’t let the fuckers get you down / Don’t let the fuckers get you down / Don’t let the fuckers get you down.” Etc, etc. There were probably other words, but I didn’t care.
For one glorious hour this band very deliberately stole our higher-functions. They took our inhibitions. We were something more. Something less. We were savages.