You know what, there’s a worrying lack of girls (ladies, females, women...whatever you’re supposed to call them these days) in music. Sure there are some massive exceptions but they tend to be solo artists, Adele, Sticky Minge, Lady GaGa...there are relatively few ‘girl’ bands...or indeed girls in bands out there. This troubles me more than the lack of females in Government (as if Government’s really change anything these days) or big corporations (ditto). Call me an old idealist but music remains one of the greatest art forms and communication tools in the world and it’s always struck me as curious that considerably fewer than 50% of the bands I’ve seen over the years (roughly 5% in fact I’d say) have any female component whatsoever. Why? Answers on a postcard please. Savages are that rare beast though, an all female group. And, whilst it really shouldn’t matter a toss what sex they are the rarity of this kind of a line up has certainly bought them added attention. Being touted as the ‘female Joy Division’ sets the bar particularly high but would tonight bring Unknown Pleasures or would it be a case of She’s Lost Control? Hmmm...
First up though and shipped in at the last minute after scheduled support act Blue On Blue had to pull out, an all too rare sighting for Birmingham’s very own Victories At Sea. I was chatting to one of tonight’s lovely promoters after the show and this really does seem to be something of a golden period for Birmingham bands. For the first time in ages it’s easy to rattle off loads of great acts and Victories At Sea are certainly one of them.
Musically they follow in the wake of bands like Editors and Interpol (with a dash of early Foals here and there perhaps), adding huge great waves of squally guitars or vintage sounding synths to the mix. Lead singer JP’s an energetic frontman, constantly twisting and jerking around the stage and occasionally dispensing with the mic altogether to deliver his words as nature intended...raw and naked. It’s an impressive performance, emotionally rich and booty shakingly danceable at the same time. Keep this up and victory’s theirs for the taking.
So, Savages then. They’re riding a bit of a wave at the moment too following some well received live shows and an impressive appearance on Later that introduced the naggingly insistent Husbands to the wider world. Whilst they may seem to have sprung fully formed from the backstreets of London at least one of the band’s got previous. Lead singer Camille Berthomier aka Jehnny Beth has been one half of Lo Fi lovers John and Jehn for the past 6 years. Cool in a way that only the French can manage she, like the rest of the band come onstage dressed in regulation black. Clattering drums and a wall of guitar noise give way to the jerky post post punk rhythms of No Face as Jehnny goes all Siouxsie Sioux on our ass. Yep, whilst the music may give more than a passing nod to Salford’s arch miserablists vocally it’s purebred Sioux. Just to reinforce the point there’s a touch of snarling punk attitude in there too as Jehnny ends the song with a request...well...more like an order...for the photographers to stop using flash. “We’re not ‘ere to report, we’re ‘ere to ‘ave fun”. You get the feeling that any repeat offenders would end up having to visit an experienced proctologist to retrieve their equipment but happily everyone obliges and the room remains flash free for the rest of the set. It would be difficult to describe this show as ‘fun’ though. That’s not really the first word you’d associate with the often dour post punk scene. Savages are certainly an impressive force though, with each member of the band hogging the limelight at different times. Drummer Fay beats the bejesus out of her kit, bassist Ayse rolls out some groovy Hooky style riffs and guitarist Gemma makes her instrument do things that are probably illegal in 22 American states. Curiously the members of the audience that seem to react best to the endless sonic assault are the older blokes, presumably down to a Pavlovian response sparked by memories of their teenage selves getting down to the sounds of Gang Of Four. Perhaps there are one or two moments when the energy dips a little mid set but double A sides Flying to Berlin and Husbands reignite the flames nicely, the latter in particular providing a dizzying blast of raw energy exacerbated by Jehnny’s whisper to a scream delivery. For a band that’s just a few months into its live career it’s been an impressive performance, dark, intense and brutal in a way that’s distinctly at odds with the mainstream music scene at the moment. It’s too early to be calling them ‘the new’ anything but, who knows, this just might be the kick in the crotch that it so desperately needs right now. The post post punk revolution starts here?