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.
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.