The debut album from London quartet Savages opens with a snippet of dialogue from John Cassavetes’s 1977 theatre-set drama Opening Night: “I’m 65,” we hear Joan Blondell’s playwright character sneer to Gena Rowlands’s age-obsessed actress. “How old are you?” And with this unsubtle assertion of the band’s old-soul affinities, we’re thrust face-first into the bruising bass rumble of “Shut Up,” a song that an actual 65-year-old today could’ve conceivably written back in 1978, given Savages’ debt to the ominous bang-and-clang of post-punk pioneers like Joy Division, Gang of Four, and Siouxsie and the Banshees.
But as Silence Yourself handily proves, familiarity’s breeding of contempt can be mitigated by pure, unwavering conviction. The album is a more brooding beast than incendiary calling-card singles like “City’s Full” and “Husbands” suggest—the nasty, corrosive textures running through “Strife” and “Waiting for a Sign” practically verge on doom metal—but even in its more meditative moments, Silence Yourself’s visceral, violent essence is just a stick-prod away from being unleashed.
And yet for all its claustrophobic intensity and sense of perpetual agitation, Silence Yourself is ultimately a statement of liberation, a testament to all those things—eye contact, uninterrupted conversation, physical interaction—we’ve forsaken for our smartphones. When the band’s unrelentingly severe frontwoman Jehnny Beth repeatedly shouts “I am here” on the song of the same name, it’s transformed from the most obvious statement a person can make to a battle cry.
Playlist picks: “City’s Full,” “Husbands,” “Strife”