The Best Albums of 2013, #12

band01Savages, Silence Yourself

Opening with a sample of dialogue from John Cassavetes’ Opening Night, featuring bitter actress Myrtle Gordon, the shattering debut album by British foursome Savages makes an immediate and indelible impression. It’s easy to be tempted to brush this band off as yet another bunch of kids trying to do the same post-punk gimmick that’s been done since the late-‘70s, but for all the tetchy grooves, for all the Siouxsie-derived affectations by singer Jehnny Beth, there’s a great deal of originality in what they do. First and foremost, Savages live up to their band name in a huge way. This is intense, intense music, but unlike Joy Division, who weren’t afraid to let a little light in every once in a while, Savages keep things as pitch black and bleak as possible. Guitarist Gemma Thompson is a revelation, as authoritative, forceful, and dexterous a non-metal guitarist as I have heard in a long, long time, and she’s the biggest reason this album succeeds so mightily. It seethes with tension, unbearable tension at times, her riffs slicing abrasively like Geordie Walker of Killing Joke, then sneak in the odd assuring melody, feedback squeals, and before you know it those full-on riffs explode in a vicious release of dark energy. It’s the perfect foil for Beth, who comes up with bleak, at times murkily enigmatic character sketches. “I took a beating tonight,” she sings at one point. “And that was the best I ever had.” I could say this is on par with Elastica’s classic 1995 debut, but Silence Yourself works on a much different level, one that delves into the darker side of post-punk in a way that no young band today ever has.