"The world's a dead, sorry hole / And I'm cold / And I'm cold." The bleak outlook of Silence Yourself, the debut from all-female British post-punk group Savages, is established soon after the opener "Shut Up" begins, and lingers over every song like the persistent London smog on Joy Division's Closer or Echo and the Bunnymen's Ocean Rain. But far from these founders' subtle, lilting eeriness, sometimes hidden in croons or shimmering chords, Savages' music lives up to the band's name and only knows one mode: attack. Jehnny Beth's vocals take the firework crackle of Corin Tucker's shout and combine it with the raw anguish of Kurt Cobain's moan, and Gemma Thompson's merciless guitar thrashes in ever-unpredictable patterns that will leave your skin prickling.
Savages' music may be hard to swallow at first, but it's worth blasting all eleven songs just to fall into the crazed, jagged plane on which they operate. On tracks like "Husbands" and "She Will," the ineffability of their melodies and repetition of their lyrics work to their advantage, suggesting a chaos they're barely managing to contain. Their core messages are hardly chaotic, however: the band has been public about their ideology of quieting down a world that is constantly abuzz with the white noise of modern media, and their debut solidifies their challenge to the world we live in. "City's Full" is a heartwarming refutation of society's repressive standards of beauty, with lines like, "Who blew the flames out of your eyes / Why do you treat yourself so bad?" and later, "I love the stretch marks on your thighs / I love the wrinkles around your eyes."
The most obvious comparison to make would be Siousxie and the Banshees, but I'm inclined to say that Savages are aiming to take that unapologetic sound further. The ripped-skin-raw self-condescension of "Hit Me" feels like it could have been on Bleach ("Will you hit me? I'm ready!"), and the chorus of Waiting For A Sign has all the violent, wailing power of Pearl Jam in their heyday. Just when you think you've learned all the tricks they have up their sleeve, they finish the album with "Marshal Dear," a searing hate song laid out on a stained mattress of piano filled with rusty springs of saxophone. The haunting discomfort of the close feels like the end of a filthy city night, a fitful sleep that will end abruptly in the broken-glass realities of modern life when you start the album again.
To say that the world needs this record would be an understatement. Meticulously crafted and unpretentiously presented, this is a no-gimmicks punk album with the force of a speeding train behind it. The dirty, rain-soaked dissonance lends an avant-garde edge to their throwback darkness, and the tornado of their electric soundscape pulls you in, even on the instrumental tracks. Silence Yourself not quite post-punk, or goth, or grunge - in fact, the very categorical resistance of this album is what makes it exciting to listen to, what makes it feel like the beginning of a fascinating career.