Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Les Enfants Sauvages

When the debut single by Savages was released in 2012, one review said that it “makes us dream of what it must have been like to have been around to hear, in real time, the debut releases by Public Image Ltd, Magazine, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Joy Division, to feel, as those incredible records hit the shops, that unearthly power and sense of a transmission from a satellite reality." As someone old enough to have been around to hear and buy all of those records in real time, I sometimes feel that music is no longer tangible and rooted in experience, but is rather some sort of virtual heritage concept that can be plundered from any age; and it makes me feel old.

Savages, a London band who played Brighton’s Concorde 2 last night, are not old - they are very young; but their sound could have come straight from those defining years of post-punk at the end of the 70s. And it is a fantastic sound: thundering percussion from stand up drummer, Fay Milton; a rumbling bass that hits you straight in the sternum, from Ayse Hassan; powerful and strident - but highly emotive - vocals from Jehnny Beth; and stylish, coruscating guitar work from Gemma Thompson. It is Thompson’s playing that stood out for me: the searing and soaring trebly urgency of the Banshees and PIL, combined with a startling array of effects and noises straight from Martin Hannett’s box of production tricks; there was never a moment’s silence in the set as her guitar fed back and warped, even in between songs.

Most of the tracks from their debut album, Silence Yourself, were played last night and, with the addition of two new songs - the pleading and desperate I Need Something New and, closing track, the radio-unfriendly Fuckers - the pace was frantic from the start. The only change of speed came in the middle of the set: the mellow and atmospheric, Waiting for a Sign, was followed by a surprising cover of highly influential electronic duo Suicide’s single, Dream Baby Dream, from 1979. It was a vibrant and exciting performance and, watching the band last night - black-clad, gender-neutral, wreathed in dry ice, indifferent or diffident in front of the audience – I could have easily been in a reality from the satellite of 34 years ago.

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