Are Savages the most exciting new band in the UK? Well on the evidence of their performance at Liverpool’s Leaf Tea Shop one would have to say they are certainly there or thereabouts. This really was one of the must see gigs of the year as renown Liverpool promoters Harvest Sun and Evol teamed up to present the talents of three of the most exciting young bands about.
The first band of the night were Liverpool based quartet Death At Sea, whose sound has more in common with 90’s indie, replete with a touch of Seattle grunge, than anything remotely Beatley. They certainly have a decent collection of noteworthy tunes, with “Drag” being the pick of the bunch. There’s also a touch of the laconic stoner Evan Dando vibe on quieter numbers, but they certainly showed they’ve got great potential and a fine sense of melody.
Palma Violets were next on the bill, and like most sensible people we shared the view that any band declared by the NME “as the next big whatever” should be approached with extreme caution. Add to the fact that information on them is sketchy (the mysterious route) and legend has it they were signed by Rough Trade on the strength of just one song, one can’t help but think, “here we go again!” However , it appears there may be some substance behind the hyperbole as these lads rattled through a ramshackle psyche rock tinged with some aplomb, led by a singer whose voice is so deep it makes Ian McCulloch sound like La Roux sucking on a helium balloon. It’s hard not to be swept up by the interplay and sheer energy exuded by front man /guitarist Sam Fryers and bass player Chilli , who hurl themselves about stage with the sort of abandon which was once called “gay” (as in fearless and carefree) whilst pulling the sort of emotive facial expressions that made them look like they are in actual physical pain. Alas the post gig high led to them apparently having to spend a few hours in police custody in a distinctly “un-Beastie Boys “slice of “controversy” Apparently the lads broke into the George Irvin Helter Skelter slide in the city-centre shortly after midnight. As you do. Whatever next, “The Joy Formidable in Bouncy Castle shame?”, “Iggy Pop breaks into a Wacky Warehouse?” is there no end to dissolute rock n’ roll depravity ?
When Savages arrived on stage there was a palpable sense of expectation. Despite only being together since October, their reputation has grown, due in the main, to good old fashioned word of mouth and one impressive live black and white video shot at The Shakelton Arms in London. Savages close cropped lead singer Jehnny Beth ( real name Camillie Berthomier, occasional actress and member of John and Jehn ) has been compared to a female Ian Curtis fused with Wynona Ryder and although people may find such comparisons lazy it’s easy to see why. She performs with the same sort of intensity as Curtis, staring into the middle distance as if viewing an impending apocalypse, lost in the moment and occasionally breaking into that strange shuffling, arm wheeling dance. Although it has to be said Jehn appears to have more natural rhythm than Curtis who, if we are being honest, often resembled a wingless dragonfly on roller skates. That said musically Savages don’t really sound much like Joy Division, yes there’s a hint of nihilist post apocalyptic darkness but there’s also a hint of early Bunnymen in certain riffs whilst at other times they recall the driving angular insistence of the female agit pop of bands such as the Au Pairs and Delta 5. As a unit each member plays their part to perfection, Ayse Hassan’s bass rumbles like black thunder, Faye Milton hammers the drum like she wants to do somebody some serious damage and Gemma Thompson’s guitar work ranges from the frenetic to the subtly atmospheric. This creates the perfect musical back drop for Jehn to sing with a strident sense of urgency, almost like she’s warning of some impeding terror . But despite the pace and urgency there’s also a lightness of touch here, a subtly which when juxtaposed with the punk new wave thrash combines perfectly and left the audience utterly spellbound. Everybody to a man, and woman, left the gig in total agreement, they’d just witnessed the first fledgling steps of a band who could well be the most important and vital band to emerge in recent years. Now we can believe the hype, Savages are the real deal.