If Savages had wanted a subtitle for their new album Adore Life, the London foursome could have easily gone with In Spite of Everything, Sometimes Including Yourself. The post-punk band changes its focus on the follow-up to their stern 2013 debut, Silence Yourself, turning from fraught self-discovery, built around recriminations and lust, to something resembling love—along with a few more recriminations, for good measure.
Though Adore Life is about love, it’s love of a tentative sort. “If you don’t love me, you don’t love anybody,” is the first lyric on the album, from a song called “The Answer.” That’s not to say that singer Jehnny Beth has an answer so much as that she is hoping to find one. In fact, her narrators on these 10 songs often sound as though they’re warily gauging the relationships they have with the idea of love in some of its various forms, and romance is rarely among them. “Love is a disease, the strongest addiction I know,” Beth sings on “Sad Person.” “Is it love, or is it boredom, that took me up to your bedroom?” she asks on “When in Love” as part of a string of either/or questions that are probably best answered with “yes.”
While Beth explores the nether reaches of the heart, it’s business as usual for the rest of the band. Bassist Ay?e Hassan, drummer Fay Milton and guitarist Gemma Thompson lock into groove after thunderous groove, dialing in a metronomic rhythm topped with scabrous swirls of guitar on “Sad Person,” and hurling guitar shards against a clamorous beat on “I Need Something New.” Though the musicians have a knack for creating volatile soundscapes, their versatility includes leaving plenty of room for Thompson’s stinging guitar licks to snake around Hassan’s tightly coiled bassline on “Slowing Down the World,” stripping back “Adore” to foreboding atmospherics, and summoning a splatty, overdriven synth-like sound that adds a ferocious undertone to the icy “Surrender.”
Silence Yourself and the singles the preceded it were inevitably described with standard post-punk adjectives like “angular,” and got Savages mentioned alongside post-punk icons like Public Image Ltd. and Siouxsie and the Banshees. It was a reasonable comparison; the band was clearly coming up the path those groups had trodden. Adore Life builds on that sound, and frames it in a contemporary context that is less throwback than thrilling.