Savages wear their influences on their black, black sleeves.
Jehnny Beth’s Siouxsie Sioux-like wail, the spare, tribal drumbeats, the languid bass and spiky guitar — it all leads a return to late ‘70s post-punk London, the era of Ian Curtis and Joy Division, Bauhaus and Siouxsie’s Banshees.
What makes Savages’ sophomore album “Adore Life” (Matador) so exciting, though, isn’t how well they re-create that time, but how much they improve upon it.
There are small changes, like the way Beth’s suddenly-grand phrasing calls to mind Morrissey’s in the title track. And then, there are huge ones.
Guitarist Gemma Thompson leads the charge with the churning opening power chords of “Answer,” where she seems ready to lead an industrial-rock charge as Beth commands “If you don’t love me, don’t love anybody!” dripping with detached cool. The references Savages carefully marked out on their debut “Silence Yourself” are still there, but they seem ready to blow past them with energy and lyrics that twist love songs into new forms.
Beth sneers her way through the brilliant “Sad Person” like an enraged Chrissie Hynde before really letting loose at the chorus. “Love is a disease — the strongest addiction I know,” she spits. “What happens in your brain is the same as the rush of cocaine — the more you have, the more you crave.” The song, driven by bassist Ayse Hassan and drummer Fay Milton, picks up momentum as it rolls along, creating its own type of rush.
“T.I.W.Y.G.” offers an ever bigger rush, with Thompson’s guitar riffs careening almost out of control as Beth chants, “This is what you get when you mess with love!”
With “Adore Life,” Savages have found a way to expand their horizons without losing their very specific artistic vision, as well as building one challenging thrill ride after another.