Savaged Expectations

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Either I haven’t been paying as close attention as I use to or there just haven’t been that many new British bands riding waves of hype over to the United States. Maybe since nobody reads the NME anymore bands don’t reach critical mass outside their home towns these days. The UK’s Savages are an exception. Their single Flying To Berlin from last year deservedly got a lot of attention as it received appropriate comparisons to Siouxsie and the Banshees. The band reportedly were no slouches live either, so it was with some excitement that I attended their Seattle debut last night at Neumos. The band’s debut album Silence Yourself isn’t due until next month but that didn’t stop Seattle anglophiles from crowding into Neumos on a Tuesday night.

Savages have style. They’ve got cool clothes and hair cuts. You can tell they take themselves seriously. It’s eyecatching to see a band that dress and look their sound on stage. The music was stylistically cool too, but unfortunately it did not go much beyond style. I have been a Savages fan since hearing last year’s Flying To Berlin 7-inch and still consider myself one, but I doubt Tuesday night’s performance did much to convince someone who wasn’t already a fan that this band is truly great. Up to this point I had heard three Savages songs and liked them all. The problem was those three songs and maybe one or two others were all that stood out. The rest of them were muddled, uninspired and kind of boring. Not having heard the full album yet, it may have been a case of a bad night or poor sound at Neumo’s (which would not be the first time at this venue). Bass player Ayse Hassan seemed to be the heart of the band. Her riffs dominated the sound and seemed to be what the songs were built around. Sometimes singer Jehnny Beth stood out with her energetic and intense delivery, but most of the time her singing was monotonous and devoid of any melody or hooks. The same could be said for guitarist Gemma Thompson. Her playing seemed uninspired and tentative and was often overpowered by the rhythm section.

There were a handful of songs that soared though and they saved them for the end of the set. Both songs from last year’s single (Husbands and Flying to Berlin) stood out. The guitars took on a Gang of Four funk to them and Beth had a melody that she could really deliver. The band seemed to come alive with additional swagger when they played their stronger songs, so maybe it’s just a matter of building up a catalog of good songs. I just was hoping that there would have been more of those moments from this band that has gotten so many glowing reviews for their live shows. I left underwhelmed, but still a fan, just one with lowered expectations for the album.

video: Savages – Shut Up (from Silence Yourself. Out on Matador on May 7)

I wasn’t sure about opener No Bra. She walked on stage took her shirt off and performed her set topless. Undoubtedly, she did it to get our attention, but it was actually distracting. After I stopped wondering why she took her shirt off, and would I be as distracted if a guy took his shirt off, and does she do this for all her performances, and does she like being on stage half naked, and does she take her shirt off just to prove she has no bra, etc. I decided that I kind of dug her monotone delivery over laptop beats. Not enough to buy one of her records though.  She closed with Munchausen that reminded me of LCD Soundsystem’s Losing My Edge with its theme of I’m cooler than you one-upmanship.

Top 40 Singles of 2012: 40 – 31

We all know that the pop 45 is meant to be experienced as a fleeting moment, an adrenaline rush or an emotional gush. If you love it you buy it. If you really love it you buy the album. A ton of 45’s came out this year, but it seemed like many of them were insanely limited. Downloads and streams have overtaken the popularity and utility of the 45 single for most, but some stubborn folk remain,  still out there in the physical world tracking down the physical objects. I hope you had as good a year as I did. These are the top 40 singles that I dug up either in stores or from mail order over the the last 12 months. 

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31. Savages – Flying to Berlin (Pop Noire)

Post punk is de rigueur these days and Savages may be the best at conjuring a Siouxsie that never really existed except for in people’s cobwebby disconnected synapses. I certainly don’t remember the Banshees ever sounding this good. Well, maybe I do but that was so long ago. Savages are Flying to Berlin right now. Don’t miss that flight.

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32. Charlie Boyer and the Voyeurs – I Watch You (Heavenly)

So I guess this means Electricity In Our Homes is no more. No worries Charlie Boyer will keep the lights on with his new single. I Watch You is similar to the more straightforward EIOH songs, but emphasizing more Television and Richard Hell tendencies, which are good tendencies to have.

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33. Mil Mascaras – Fuzz (Hozac)

I don’t know how Hozac continues to unearth killer bands, but they continue to do it at an alarming rate. Mil Mascaras are from Strasbourg, France and sound like they took their  Autoclave and Liliput records, sailed up the Rhine and out to sea, jumped overboard and came up drenched in industrial waste, lobster, anemone and sea stars.

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34. The Marble Vanity – You Can’t Step On a Rainbow (Slow Fizz)

The Marble Vanity are kinda Monkeys and kinda Left Banke. Twenty years ago they would have been lumped in the the Elepahnt 6 collective. You Can’t Step On a Rainbow is all harmless fun with horns and harpsicord and an important message for the kids. No, you can’t step on a rainbow, but there are pots of gold to be had if you put this on your turntable.

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35. Wax Idols – Schafenfreude (Suicide Squeeze)

With this single, Wax Idols fully embrace their inner goths. Heather Fortune sounds either disconnected and numb or intimidating and imposing. I can’t tell and that’s what makes this so good. That and the fact that both of these song surpass anything on last year’s really good album.

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36. Small Reactions – Nerve Pop (Magic Marker)

This may be the rarest piece of vinyl on this year’s countdown. Through some bad luck it was supposed to come out on Portland’s Magic Marker and then never did. If you know the right alley in Atlanta you may be able to get a copy of this wonderful slice of pop. If a record comes out and nobody knows it, trees still fall if you turn it up loud enough.

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37. Brothers In Law – Holy Weekend (CF)

Psych rock inspired by the Thirteenth Floor Elevators synthesized in the Italian countryside to come out sounding more than a little like the Might Lemon Drops.  Holy Weekend is nothing but big jangly goodness that has whetted my appetite for a follow up to this debut.

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38. Cheap Time – Other Stories (Sweet Rot)

Listening to Other Stories, it’s easy to tell that Jeffrey Novak hung out with Jay Retard. It’s raw and rockin’ but where Retard was all adrenaline, Novak prefers to dose his garage with a little psychedelia and is all the better for it.

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39. Fountains – Easily Lead (Beautiful Strange)

Fountains debut single was a huge sounding moody thing with big guitars crashing all over the place. Part Kitchens of Distinction, Echo and the Bunnymen and Wild Swans. So happy to see they still make ’em like this.

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40. Wild Nothing – Nowhere (Captured Tracks)

This is undoubtedly Jack Tatum’s ode to the Go-Betweens and it’s a beauty. Nowhere easily surpasses the entirety of Wild Nothing’s second album which this song did not appear. Probably because it would have made the rest of it seem like nothing. More like this please Mr. Tatum.