By Paul Faller
It’s been a good week for Savages – not only did they release their debut EP I Am Here, they also gave an incendiary performance on Later… With Jools Holland that exposed Mumford & Sons as the tedious dullards they really are. For any band to release a live EP so early in their career is a bold move, but for Savages it’s simultaneously a logical one – it’s logical because the band’s current reputation is built around their live shows, and bold because it demonstrates a significant level of confidence in their own abilities.
For those who are new to the band, they’re a London based, all-female four-piece who make brooding post-punk that’s not afraid to get loud and chaotic – savage, if you will (sorry). Think Siouxsie Sioux fronting Joy Division, or for a 21st century comparison, a more focused version of what The Horrors were doing on their first record – less shock, more awe. (I don’t mean that in an unkind way, either – I liked the first Horrors record.)
I Am Here spans four tracks taken from two separate live shows in Nottingham and Bristol, although they run together seamlessly enough that it’s completely unnoticeable. ‘City’s Full’ kicks things off by contrasting its infectious bass riff and relentless drumming with frenzied, squalling guitars and dramatic vocals – it makes for an intoxicating opening gambit. ‘Give Me A Gun’ ups the tempo, fixating on hypnotic repetition to propel itself forward. Admittedly, it doesn’t feel quite as compelling when the pace drops off about halfway through, but the change in dynamic does succeed in making the song’s last 30 seconds all the more ferocious.
‘I Am Here’ begins in a murky, sinister fuzz and works itself into a deranged climax – you can almost imagine lead singer Jehnny Beth staring at her audience with wide-eyed intensity while her bandmates conjure up a storm around her. It’s ‘Husbands’ that remains Savages’ best tune though – its implacable baseline, spiralling guitar riffs and thrashed-out drums rush by in a wave of early Joy Division menace, and with Jehn’s manic, hyperventilating vocal thrown into the mix it’s an utterly captivating experience. If these three minutes don’t convince you to pick up a ticket to see the band in your nearest dark, sweaty venue, then it’s fair to say that nothing will.
It’s all too easy to write off any band who arrive on a wave of hype and hyperbole, but the problem here, fellow cynics, is a simple one – Savages are actually really good. Granted, a lot of their appeal stems from the sheer energy of their performances, an aspect that I Am Here captures in a raw but satisfying way. The potential for a killer debut full-length is certainly present, but let’s not concern ourselves too much with the long term just yet – Savages are here, and they are now.