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Is it human to adore ‘Adore Life’? Hell yes.

(Courtesy of Colin James)

(Courtesy of Colin James)
(Courtesy of Colin Lane)

Savages leap right out the door on their sophomore LP “Adore Life” with the opening track “The Answer.” Barreling, crunchy guitar and the repeated, desperate refrain of “If you don’t love me, don’t love anybody” announces the post-punk ensemble’s follow-up to their excellent debut “Silence Yourself.” Vocalist Camille Berthomier’s ostensible resolution of “love is the answer” offers no relief from this concentrated assault. Though their opening track is called “The Answer,” this album is not about conclusions. Additionally, although the album is called “Adore Life,” it opts for honesty over optimism.

Indeed, “Adore Life” stands out immediately as a raw, open exploration of love.  Alongside Gemma Thompson and Ayse Hassan’s dueling guitar and bass, Camille Berthomier’s powerful and flexible vocals — reminiscent of the great proto-punk pioneer Patti Smith — illuminate the high-stakes game of passion. Savages don’t shy away from the ugly, dangerous sides of love—vulnerability, fear, identity crisis, etc. In fact, in “Adore  Life,” much of the beauty is in the danger.

This danger is front and center on “Adore Life.” Berthomier likens love to both disease and addiction on “Sad Person.” She explores the perils of this addiction on “I Need Something New,” shouting “I need you” repeatedly over a cacophony of guitar before acknowledging, “I need something new.”

(Courtesy of Colin James)
(Courtesy of Colin Lane)

On “When in Love,” which boasts one of the best opening guitar hooks on the album, she wonders, “Is this love or is it boredom?” And the title of the song “T.I.W.Y.G.” literally stands for “This is what you get when you mess with love.” Yet at the end of the song, Berthomier admits, “I mess with love.” “Adore Life,” though it openly confronts the dangers of love, embraces this powerful feeling at the same time. This tenuous relationship with love is exemplified on the album’s third single “Adore.”

Like the album as a whole, the song “Adore” is darker than its name would suggest. It’s also one of the strongest tracks on the record. It opens with a lumbering bass line, with by-turns noisy and clear guitars interspersed throughout. All the while, Berthomier’s pensive voice asks, “Is it human to adore life?” She wrestles with the pain and regrets of love (“If only I’d hidden my lust,” “If only I didn’t care so much”), illuminating the contradictions of love before moving on to the contradictions of life and death. Though at one point she says, “If only I didn’t wish to die,” the song ends in the repeated, building refrain of “I adore life.” “Adore” begins as quiet musing, but as the song draws to a close, the instrumentation builds, and Berthomier’s voice cries out an octave higher at the song’s climax.

As an album, “Adore Life,” much like the song from which it gets its title, hovers somewhere in between joy and despair. Savages delve into the nature of love, that feeling that can make us “wish to die” or “adore life.” Thankfully, they do this in pure post-punk fashion, giving us moments of bracing noise and quiet beauty in equal measure. From the explosive energy of opening track “The Answer” to the echoing atmosphere of the album’s closer “Mechanics,” Savages new release is an emotional punch to the gut in the best possible way.

Contact Tyler Dunston at tdunston ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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