Before lead singer Jehnny Beth stepped out as an acclaimed solo artist and before she was releasing critics’ choice album To Love Is To Live, all polished electro sheen and processed gloss, she was the focal point of Savages, a perfectly-named, uncompromising four piece with a clear affinity for post-punk and tough, muscular guitars.
Savages’ debut single ‘Husbands‘ remains their high watermark. First heard, it made me want to kick in walls…and I’m a lover, not a fighter. Its concrete slab rhythm and the howling ferocity of the guitars set them apart as the most exciting thing since Pixies first surfed their thang in wonky time signatures and broken sweary Spanish.
Savages – Husbands
Watching the clip of it below reminds me of that footage of Joy Division on Something Else; four musicians locked into their own world, aloof slightly, arrogant perhaps, but flying on self-belief and attitude, locked into a groove and hanging on for dear life as they clatter downhill without the brakes on, yet in complete control. They know they’re great and after you’ve watched it, you’ll be in no doubt too.
You can find umpteen performances of Husbands just as intense, just as essential as this across the internet. That the band play it every time as though it may be the final thing they do before the world ends tells you all you need to know. They mean it, man.
The vocals on top are the icing on a particularly scorching cake. Part antagonistic, part orgasmic, Jehnny Beth’s voice comes in ever-increasing waves; shouty one moment, breathy the next and every line full-stopped by a feral, wailing guitar before the band ease off and reign it in, only to ramp it all back up again. It’s a breathless rush, a voice clear and centre while the chaos around her reigns. How could anyone not like this?
“Husbands, husbands, husbands, husbands,” she repeats over and over. She starts only mildly scary but by the end she’s fairly terrifying, the sound of Siouxsie Sioux going 15 rounds with PJ Harvey. I daresay there’s a frisson of political undertone to the record, and why not, but more than that, Husbands is just a really great, loud, fast, dynamic rock song, a Sturm und Drang of scorching electric guitars and crashing ride cymbals.
That Savages look great too – all high cheekbones and glossy, pixie-cut hair, sleek black linear clothing only matched by coal-black, wild-eyed focus -makes the whole thing the perfect package. What a shame they’ll not make more records.