Les Savy Fav Les Savy FavRoot For Ruin
To strip down to his underwear (or something similar) and to dress up on stage is to the corpulent, bearded and bald Tim Harrington, the peculiar singer of Les Savy Fav, a way of presenting himself to the public during his wild live shows. Not the shame of not being himself for a while ( and being, for example, some kind of yeti), nor of revealing the pertinent belly where he keeps his soul, stop him from going all out during each and every one of his concerts. The same lack of shame has allowed Les Savy Fav to vary and connect their nakedness and post-hardcore essence with art-rock, 80’s pop and even funk, which has led to a growing richness of nuances in their music and (therefore?) ever greater songs. This ascending revolution, which hardly could be expected at the time of their debut, “3/5” (French Kiss, 1997), started on the promising “The Cat And The Cobra” (French Kiss, 1999), but touched the ceiling with the splendid “Inches” (released on French Kiss as well, in 2004 - although it was a compilation of singles previously released by several other labels) and, above all, the marvellous “Let’s Stay Friends” (French Kiss, 2007) with which they returned after six years without making a record to touch on very different sonic grounds.
That ceiling is still the same, despite the release of “Root For Ruin”, which is a good record, complete and accessible, that prolongs the line of the previous album without taking it that far, in still trying to return a bit more to their 90’s origins. In a way, it’s as if once they’d found the limits of their possibilities, Les Savy Fav were only able to relax and use their proven skills to produce an efficient record, and nothing more. It starts with the band’s trademark hardcore urgency, a screaming and stomping “Appetites” that will be a very useful tool for the bearded Harrington to do his thing at the gigs. On “Sleepless In Silverlake”, the arty New York sound returns with a very tender mid-tempo. The record reaches its zenith right after that, with “Let’s Get Out Of Here”, with the simplicity of the most sing-a-longable and adolescent choruses (and which could well have been written by Jimmy Eat World). “I just want you to want me right now”, they sing when they’re at their most melodious. There is still time for Harrington to modulate his voice and bring it close to Ian Curtis’s on the noisy and cold “Poltergeist”, sounding like pure British post-punk. The syncopated stoner-rock-like rhythm of “Excess Energies” gets interesting when a couple of synths peep around the corner, while “Dear Crutches” recovers the most emo side of the band, taken up with much more decisiveness by many of their peers who also drank from the Fugazi well. The last song on the record, “Clear Spirits”, turns out to be the boldest experiment, with a new approach to British bands like Pulp, and which includes a drum intro with the most puzzling reverb.
It’s likely that any listener will be left satisfied after hearing “Root For Ruin”, produced, like all their records, by the band’s bassist Syd Butler and his French Kiss cohorts. But it’s also probable that neither the ones that liked the naked spirit of the growling hardcore of their early beginnings, nor those who acclaimed their experiments and eclecticism on the following albums, will be left with the impression that the band have progressed with this record. With the exception of “Let’s Get Out Of Here”, there are no unforgettable songs here like there was with “Meet Me In The Dollar Bin” and “The Sweet Descends” (on “Inches”) or “Equestrian”, “Pots And Pans” and “Patty Lee”, from the aforementioned “Let’s Stay Friends”. The imminent release of Superchunk’s new album, after nine years without recording, will be a better indicator of the health of the current scene.
Les Savy Fav - Lets Get Out of Here