Postpunk is a strange designation: neither a negative or positive category, it is defined only by what came before it. There is a punk rock energy to Silence Yourself; sound fairly spews off the record itself. Swooning guitars, blasty cymbals, and thumping bass drive the band through raw moments, but they are not afraid to cool off a bit either, employing pianos and even a sort of subtle samba at times. Vocalist Jehnny Beth channels riot-grrl history from the B-52s to Bikini Kill to late period Sleater-Kinney, and it’s her performance that makes Silence Yourself compelling: you just want to listen to her scream and yowl.
There’s a heavy surf-rock influence on Savages sound. Their music is rarely harmonic, and is instead either heavily riff-based (think early Fugazi meets Silver Apples) or sort of agressively (think late Fugazi and late Sleater-Kinney). Sliding power chords, four on the floor drum beats, and chromatic melodies blossom into strangely bent chords layered with reverb and delay. The band is flexible, able to connect a whole host of disparate ideas without it seeming awkward or forced.
But Silence Yourself, while compelling and exciting, lacks weight. It makes a sort of teenage impression: lots of angst, lots of noise and energy, but little followthrough. Part of this is the album’s engineering; it sounds polished, smooth, and clean, three things for which no punk (post- or otherwise) album should strive. The production makes them sound a little insincere and a little constructed – a shame for a band who could not mean what they are doing more.
Savages – “Shut Up”
Savages – “She Will”
Savages – “Husbands”