Savages/Palma Violets

Leaf, Liverpool, July 25

Tom Martin/NME
Photo: Tom Martin/NME
Tonight: proof that good new bands really are like buses. It seems like every cool kid in Liverpool has come out to see this double-header, as Savages and Palma Violets take their burgeoning hype on a joyride around the UK for the first time. They have the style, swagger and songs to make a difference and, after six months of underground gigging, both are poking their heads above the manholes.

Not that they remotely fit together, mind. All-girl quartet Savages are bullish yet bruised, and aesthetically immaculate. Theirs is a world of stone-cold aloofness that takes its shelter in the pages of Ian Curtis’ diaries. All-boy quartet Palma Violets, meanwhile, play rock’n’roll as if they’ve just invented it, and come armed with five of the biggest choruses since Alex Turner surveyed his local dancefloor.

PV singer Sam may bear an uncanny resemblance to Ian McCulloch, but it’s Jonathan Richman’s Modern Lovers who the band really bring to mind. All of them are completely ramshackle in the best possible way and, weirdly, they each appear to be vying to outdo each other in the charisma stakes too. Case in point: drummer Will, who plays the entire gig completely straight-faced despite the fact he’s wearing a woman’s nightie. Their best moment, the scream-along future hit ‘Best Friend’ is simply undeniable.

A complete contrast, then, when Savages take to the stage. Straightaway, frontwoman Jehnny sets about bullying us into submission, and we lap it up. When she introduces new song ‘Another War’ by remarking almost apologetically about how “weird” it is, you can’t help but think she is too. She’s totally the focal point, leaving the band’s motorik rhythms to provide a mesmerisingly tight backbone. On ‘Husbands’ they sound like The Slits doing ‘Holiday In Cambodia’, while ‘Shut Up’ revels in its own Hitchcockian hell. When they chuck in a curveball by ditching the post-punk for some properly massive hooks on set-closer ‘She Will’? it makes them even more beguiling. British music has been stale for too long – these two bands are changing things.

Matt Wilkinson

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