In retrospect, Savages’ decision to publish a manifesto alongside their searing 2013 debut Silence Yourself feels prescient rather than preventative. "The world used to be silent / now it has too many voices," wrote frontwoman Jehnny Beth. "And the noise / is a constant distraction … Perhaps / having deconstructed everything / we should be thinking about / putting ourselves back together." Almost three years have gone by since Silence Yourself was released, and the chorus has only grown louder. The band’s plea for quiet — for relief from the world’s relentless beeping and buzzing — has fallen on preoccupied ears.
The band’s new LP Adore Life offers up what Beth calls "the solution." You don’t have to wait long to hear it expressed: within 30 seconds of pressing play, Beth is murmuring "Love is the answer" over Fay Milton’s roaring drums and Ayşe Hassan’s bloody, thudding bass. Love is oozing from Adore Life’s every pore: self-love, love for your partners, love for the strangers standing beside you in the street, love for life itself. If you don’t believe in love’s transformative power, the band makes it clear you’re the enemy. On the album’s quasi-title track, Beth asks, "I adore life / Do you adore life?" It’s an ultimatum, and throughout the album, Savages deliver it over and over again with unflinching intensity.
To hear Beth tell it, love can only thrive without boundaries. Adoring life means embracing everything you desire, even if it seems perverse or gauche. They’re not the first people to make that case. "The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it," wrote Oscar Wilde in The Picture of Dorian Gray. "Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself."
"Love is a disease / the strongest addiction I know"
The band’s condemnation of homophobia (on the rumbling "Evil," a highlight) and misogyny makes immediate sense in that regard: orientation and gender shouldn’t disqualify you from living your life to the fullest. But it also has no qualms about celebrating exhibitionism, promiscuity, and aggressive, unrelenting lust. Put another way, they don’t take issue with the naked pursuit of pleasure as long as it’s not hurting anyone else. "Love is a disease / the strongest addiction I know," sings Beth on "Sad Person." "What happens in the brain / is the same as the rush of cocaine!" A few songs later, a desperate search for adrenaline ends with an alleyway tryst near the end of "I Need Something New."
Adore Life is warm, sensual, and smothering
If you’re thinking Adore Life sounds strident, you’re not wrong. It’s also warm, sensual music, and the band didn’t have to sacrifice much of its sharpness or aggressiveness to draw out those qualities. Silence Yourself and Adore Life mine the same rich post-punk vein, but the former’s washes of noise were oppressive; on songs like "Husbands" and "She Will," Beth howled like a woman on the verge of hysteria. Adore Life is more spacious. It’s smothering, not serrated, and its waves of noise — the feedback thundercloud that opens "T.I.W.Y.G.," the spray that closes "I Need Something New" — are inviting, not foreboding. Beth sings like a tiger, one surveying prey from a branch overhead: she’s all coiled strength, just waiting to be unleashed.
Adore Life isn’t going to catalyze a universal shift toward radical, transgressive openness. No matter the album’s impact, there’s still something fundamentally exciting about listening to a band with such clarity of sonic and philosophical purpose. Savages are musical street proselytizers: even if you’re not on board with the message, they can get your ear through sheer force of charisma and will.