When Savages made their debut in 2013 with Silence Yourself, they came into rock with a punch and a scream. The title of their album said it all: these women had something to say, and we were going to listen. The band was instantly given the label post-punk — they had the throbbing bass lines, the unrelenting drums, dark, intense lyrics, and a singer with confidence, an awkward swagger and a message (and dance moves eerily similar to Ian Curtis). Much was made about their feminism and their manifesto, and the usual snide questioning of “why are these women so angry?” abounded (a question that their male counterparts are typically spared). In a world of wise cracks and clever asides, singer Jehnny Beth was telling us to take her and her band dead seriously, and we did.
On their sophomore album, Adore Life, not much has changed. If you’re not a fan of the raw power and overt sexuality of their debut, their latest effort does not offer much to lure you in. Though it has more moments of softness than their first, sonically not much has changed, except perhaps on “Surrender”, a track that teeters on the edge of danceability, but never fully jumps in. The real evolution on Adore Life is all in the lyrics. Where Silence Yourself was an album of raw sensuality and dangerous yearnings, the songs on this album are more driven by emotion than desire. This is a record about the threatening nature of love and how love can be simultaneously gorgeous and volatile. Adore Life tells us that love is both “the answer” and “a disease.”
The beautiful aspect of this album in comparison to their prior work is that it now feels like we’re getting more of a window into the soul of the band. When we get past all of the anger and lust, there is raw emotion and vulnerability. Adore Life offers small peeks into a more delicate Savages, yet it still has the same power and punch as their debut. The impact doesn’t come just from the pounding bass lines and driving guitars, the screaming or the guttural yells, it comes from the introspective and confessional lyrics.
Track by track, the album is mostly a success, if not a bit of a repeat of their previous work. “Evil” has a strong bass line that brings to mind all of those post-punk comparisons their debut elicited. “I Need Something New” recalls the punk-rock poetry of Patti Smith. “The Answer” pummels with heavy metal guitar and throbbing bass. Every track hits hard and gives us a little bit more perspective on who exactly Savages are.
The video for “Adore” really speaks to the power of this album at its most successful moments. Beth’s direct Sinéad O’Connor stare in the clip proves that vulnerability and sincerity can hold even more power than a punch.