Recording information: Fish Factory, London (12/2012).
Photographer: Richard Dumas.
Plenty of bands have resuscitated post-punk throughout the 2000s and 2010s, but few have done so with the passion that reverberates through Savages' debut album, Silence Yourself. The band's early singles drew favorable comparisons to Patti Smith, Siouxsie Sioux, and a host of other strong female acts with post-punk roots, and the entire album burns with the same kind of confrontational fire those older artists had -- which, somewhat paradoxically, makes Savages sound particularly refreshing compared to many of their more blas‚ contemporaries. Yet Silence Yourself is also an emphatic declaration of independence that is reflected in the band's approach to making music -- they paid to make it with their own money and splashed their manifesto on the cover -- as well as in the actual music. Since Sleater-Kinney's dissolution, powerful all-female bands have been few and far between in indie rock, and there's nothing wispy, precious, or coy about Savages on these songs. Their music is pointedly undecorative, particularly on tracks like "No Face," a searing three-and-a-half-minute showcase for what they do: singer Jehnny Beth leads the charge with her furious wail, and Ayse Hassan, Fay Milton, and Gemma Thompson do their best to keep up with her. Beth may be the band's lightning rod, but she's also a fairly versatile and evocative singer, moving from the feral, taunting "Husbands" to the ultra-gothy swoon of the closing torch song "Marshal Dear." At this point in their career, there's no escaping that Savages' music owes a significant debt to their foremothers, but Silence Yourself is more than just a collection of touchstones and footnotes. Beth and crew have a riveting presence that makes each track magnetic, and more than a few songs here hint at how wide their musical scope actually is: "Strife" swaggers along at a self-assured pace, and follows the album's poppiest chorus with doom-laden chords suggesting that Savages may be (not so) secret metalheads, while "Hit Me"'s breakneck pace nods to hardcore. Even their more traditionally post-punk tracks like "She Will" reflect a viewpoint -- regarding the wilder parts of female sexuality in this case -- that is unique. Given that much of the initial buzz about the band revolved around its electrifying live performances, in some ways Silence Yourself doesn't provide the full Savages experience, but it offers more than enough to make it a powerful debut that suggests they'll become an even more distinctive force to be reckoned with over time. ~ Heather Phares
Rolling Stone (p.75) - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "[A] constant, compact fury: Emotional confrontation and sexual vengeance executed with martial discipline..."
CMJ - "Rage, lust, sorrow, fear-the entire cathartic spectrum comes out in full force on SILENCE YOURSELF, and with tremendous volume."
Billboard - "From boisterous opener 'Shut Up' to the noisy static of first single 'Husbands,' it packs a compelling wallop."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.87) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "SILENCE YOURSELF demands you shut up and listen. Compliance is advised."