Every once in awhile something comes along that absolutely blows you away *. Whether music, art, or film. We’ve all experienced it. That really rather fucking special feeling. The first time I read anything by Hunter S. Thompson; at 15 when my Dad gave me the Pixies’ Surfer Rosa; the moment I finally ‘got’ Trout Mask Replica. You know what I mean. Back in February, on a night when I was there to see another band, I fell in love with Savages. Remember the name, and trust me, this year will be theirs.
Savages are Jehnny Beth (vocals), Gemma Thompson (guitar), Ayse Hassan (bass), and Fay Milton (drums). Yes, 4 girls, making the kind of music that most men can only dream of. Raw, violent and utterly electrifying. Ever since my housemate introduced me to Bauhaus last year, I’ve been waiting, hoping, praying for a band to come along and give me a similar shot in the arm, a rush of pure untempered post-punk energy. In That Flat Field era. Less theatrical, more immediate. And not afraid to go against the grain of formal song structure. Savages (such a fitting name) are one of the most complete young bands I’ve ever come across. And no, I’m not exagerrating for effect.
Where to start. In vocalist Jehnny, perhaps a classic jolie laide (look it up), they possess a strikingly intriguing frontwoman. Intense and self-possessed, there is an emotive force in her approach that says to me Annette Peacock (check this). Visually she reminds me most of Julie Driscoll though, a similar sophisticated cool. And it’s this marrying of styles that makes her so utterly magnetic. Dark and thoughtful, she twists her way through the music, cutting in and out of Gemma’s harsh serrated guitar lines. At once both lyrical and discordant, sparse and sharp. Pick scrapes, feedback and violent echoes are never far away. And yet it never feels like a put on. This isn’t just show. Her guitar almost sings. And for me there’s real feeling behind the way she plays.
On the other side of the band, drummer Fay and bassist Ayse both demand our attention every bit as much as their counterparts. Fay’s pounding, tribal drum beats - quick fire and off-kilter - bring something else to the band. Steeped in dance/garage roots, there’s an edge to her drumming that sees her standout and burst through with a real immediacy. She is as far from a classic indie/rock drummer as you might get, and yet that’s exactly what makes her the perfect fit. While Ayse’s heavy basslines almost sit at the forefront of it all, simulataneously dirty and grooving. She’s a hell of a bassist. And together with Fay, they effortlessly shift the band’s sound from something otherwise jagged and piercing, to driving and dancey, and then back again.
But it’s all about how they play off against eachother. It’s that chemistry which makes them such a dangerous prospect. Surely one of the most exciting young bands to come out of London in a long long while. They approach it all with such clarity and belief in who they are and what they’re striving for. And it’s this intellegence behind their music that makes it and them so so special.
I’m still looking for the right words to sum up just how much this band has already affected me. Holy Jesus! I get goosebumps when I listen to them. (This is where I go Gonzo). They did more than just steal my heart that night, they tore my insides out and burned me up. A timely reminder of just how much I love young music………………no point in mentioning the bats.
Listen to their debut single here. And make sure you catch them at the Shacklewell Arms next week (May 28th). You won’t regret it. I’ll be out there in front. Most likely filming.