Savages’ sophomore album “Adore Life” is a great album to have around because it does not fall victim to the second-album-slump that sometimes affects bands whose debuts were highly acclaimed. For example, Jack White’s first solo album “Blunderbuss” was an interesting and fun garage rock album and expansion of White’s style, while his second record “Lazaretto” reeked with a lack of effort. Or The Strokes’ “Room on Fire,” which was just an uninspired carbon copy of their previous album. While “Adore Life” stays true to the same fuzzy post-punk from Savages’ debut “Silence Yourself,” it adds just enough progression to remain a fun listen.
This progression is evident from the opening guitar riff of the first song, “The Answer,” an aggressive and speedy song about jealousy and longing. “If you don’t love me, don’t love anybody,” singer Jehnny Beth shouts through her English-French accent; “ain’t you glad it’s you?” she asks. This is the lyrical tone through the rest of the album: angry, mean, sometimes violent love songs such as “Evil,” in which Beth sings as an obsessive, perfectionistic romantic. “Sad Person” makes the band’s influences most obvious (it’s straight off a Fall record) while staying original, but “Adore Life” finds its life on the fourth track, the almost-eponymous “Adore.”
On “Adore,” the verses find Beth accompanied only by bass and notes on a single, unaffected guitar string, the choruses both fuzzed out and slowly sad. “I adore life,” Beth sings, but from her tone and the tempo of the song, it’s hard to believe her. “Slowing Down the World” begins with an explosion of guitar feedback before sliding into a Wire-esque slow jam, and “I Need Something New” tells you exactly that, and loudly. Songs like “When in Love” and “Surrender” are dedicated to the messiness of love, including gendered power, intimacy, trust and sexual self-discovery. Drummer Fay Milton is steady and reliable underneath Ayse Hassan’s heavy picked bass and Gemma Thompson’s aggressive guitar work, and the band always sounds very together.
As sensitive and confused as the lyrical themes get over the course of the album, Savages never lose control of their own narrative. While the songs are often mean and angry, they are performed with power and edge that is very authentic. It is clear that Savages understand they are a hyped and buzzed-about band, but also that they don’t owe anyone anything and make the music they want to make. The album’s penultimate song “T.I.W.Y.G.,” which stands for “This Is What You Get,” is also its most self-critical, as evidenced by the lyrics that consist mostly of Jehnny Beth beating herself up over past relationship mistakes.
“Adore Life” ends with “Mechanics,” a very slow song that only features voice and guitar, both of which are mixed with various effects. “Mechanics” has Beth singing in tribute to someone she loves and makes her feel alive, hopeful that their relationship will stand the test of time, even though with her luck, it probably won’t. Like the rest of the album, it is uplifting music underlined by possible tragic endings, and like “Adore Life” as a whole, it is enrapturing.