Nashville’s Savoy Motel are so old school it hurts, with 70s-style press releases being mailed out across the Atlantic to schmucks like me on cheapo, facsimile paper alongside a full-size, black & white signed photo of them and a promotional vinyl single. Vinyl promo single. Who the hell else does that in 2016?
On the accompanying photo, they look like they’ve walked straight out of The Brady Bunch and into the music store:
The press release, which is signed by somebody called Pookie Fielding, states that they came together in the summer of 2014 before detailing “the Savoy sound” and alluding to the band as being “not only a location, it’s a state of mind”. They live, it says, at “an out-of-the-way dark spot where there’s never any vacancy, because everyone at Savoy Motel are residents… residents of a glowing world encapsulated in its own entranced yet detached style.” Shooting on digital, you imagine, is probably not their style.
Onto the music. Early track ‘Hot One’ was an all-thriller beast that fused Chuck Berry duck walk guitar theatrics with trashy synth effects while a Maestro drum machine tripped out beneath it all. It was perhaps the only song in pop history to make robotic vocals sound positively dreamy, and it still feels distinctly out of place now, months after it came out.
Follow-up ‘Souvenir Shop Rock’ is Savoy Motel’s ace card, an irresistibly sleazy affair that makes you wonder what The Strokes might have ended up like if they’d written ‘Honky Tonk Woman’ instead of ‘Last Nite’ back in 2000. Aloof, grubby, weird and sexy, it’s barnstorming, as if Savoy Motel have tapped into the same lo-fi essence that acts like Colorblind James Experience had – mixing all-too-knowing coolness with awe-inspiring studio dexterity.
Put simply, while they coo dismissively about “barking orders, taking orders” it sounds like the coolest thing ever all over again, despite of (or perhaps it's in spite of?) the rest of rock’n’roll sounding rather tired elsewhere at present.
Needless to say, the song is by quite some way the best guitar-based offering by a new act I’ve heard all year.
The fourpiece have already been picked up by the excellent What’s Your Rupture? label – the people who brought you amazing music by Parquet Courts and Royal Headache in recent years – and a debut album, alongside UK and US tours, is being pencilled in for later in the year. It can’t come soon enough.