On their 2013 debut, Savages sought to cut through the noise and confusion of the modern world by demanding, quite literally, that you shut up and listen. ‘Silence Yourself’ had a lot to say (it even came with its own manifesto) and served as an aesthetically-perfect simulacrum of Savages’ post-punk influences, but it was also so austere and self-serious it could’ve been subtitled ‘…or tell the rest of the class what you find so amusing.’ Their eagerly-anticipated follow-up likewise orders the listener to ‘Adore Life’, a decree that – coming from such a humourless source – sounds like something you’d expect to find written above the gates of a Soviet labor camp.
Yet where ‘Silence Yourself’ bristled with artistic certitude, ‘Adore Life’ is defined by emotional vulnerability. For one thing, that title isn’t actually an edict, but a question: “If only I’d been more shy/And hid every tear I cried/If only I didn’t wish to die/Is it human to adore life?” Jehnny Beth wonders on ‘Adore’, a gothic torch song that sounds like Nick Cave having a bash at ‘The Impossible Dream’. Lead single ‘The Answer’, powered by Gemma Thompson’s jackhammering guitar riff, is the soundtrack to a flight of romantic hysteria (“If you don’t love me, you don’t love anybody”) while the bruising, brilliant ‘Sad Person’ declares that, “Love is a disease/The strongest addiction I know/What happens in the brain/ Is the same as the rush of cocaine.” Savages remain as uncompromising as they ever were, but ‘Adore Life’ adds an unexpected string to their bow: soulfulness.
For the most part, this is an album of love songs: not in the trite, wishy-washy sense of the word but as an elemental and all-consuming force – “Suffering, straight from the gods,” as the ferocious ‘T.I.W.Y.G.’ memorably puts it. “I want to know the come and go, the mechanics and all the tricks of love,” sings Jehnny on spartan closing track ‘Mechanics’, while Thompson’s guitar whistles past her like tumbleweed. Like ‘Adore Life’ itself, the answer seems as simple as it does mystifying: pleasure and pain, submission and control, a box of matches you can’t help playing with.