Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Sweeping The Nation Albums Of 2007: Number 6

For Les Savy Fav, the last couple of years must have seemed like one big music industry cosmic joke. As they took a couple of years out to concentrate on their lives after 2004's near-indispensible singles compilation Inches, a whole slew of bands took their building blocks of angular artrock and ran with it, just as they had with the death disco and flaming knives punk-funk of previous albums. They seemed destined for a footnote, the band that could have been it had hairier, skinnier, prettier, more predictable boys than Tim Harrington not arrived with their own copies of Entertainment! and Double Nickels On The Dime to leech from. Yet here we sit at the end of 2007 with Harrington in the NME Cool List and London still reverberating from an extraordinary show at the Scala in October. The crux was their first proper album in six years, Let's Stay Friends, which not only picked up where they left off but ran rings round a good number of their new contemporaries in the process. While it still wouldn't hold a candle to the live extravaganza - admittedly, the Romans and lions would have trouble pitted against Tim's fancy dress box and lengthy mike lead - it might be the first time their sheer energy and joi de vivre in the middle of existential panic ("Before I was a corpse I was a kid/Before I was a cloud I was a grid" - Brace Yourself) has successfully translated to disc.

And you couldn't get much more of a mission statement than track one, Pots And Pans, wherein a band who "made this noise that people couldn't stand" decide "let's tear this whole place down and build it up again/This band's a beating heart and it's nowhere near its end", Harrington cautioning amidst Seth Jabour's chiming guitar "Have you been made dense standing upon the fence?/Have you been made dense from polish and pretense?" Later on Raging In The Plague Age tells of the people throwing a king out of his castle for their party and leaving him to die of the black death, but it does smack somewhat underneath that explanation of taking over to claim what's rightfully theirs. The answer to their dreams is laid out across these 38 and a half minutes, more approachable than many of their previous screes but no less impassoned, The Equestrian switching seamlessly from the flailing roar of the verses to the streamlined chorus, The Year Before The Year 2000 laying waste to Bloc Party dynamics before making a chantalong group chorus of "nineteen ninety-nine/Nineteen ninety-nine's alright!" before What Would Wolves Do? shows a lot of tight-trousers youngsters how you really appropriate a Joy Division influence. Harrington starts Patty Lee in a fetching falsetto while Jabour's tightly coiled riffs whirr away somewhere adjacent to the propulsive rhythm section, the latter even more in evidence on the wordplay and reverbing Martin Hannett sonic claustrophobia of Brace Yourself. Having feasted on Slugs In The Shrubs' abrasive dirty rock'n'roll riffing, they even have a go at a more melodically elegaic number, Comes & Goes featuring piano, acoustic guitar and Fiery Furnace Eleanor Friedberger for something that her own band might manage were they more controlled and boggle-eyed. The only reason why Scotchgard The Credit Card can't hang on to the new melodic air is Harrington sounds too desperate to settle down, appealing "won't somebody meet me in the present tense?" over guitars that get grittier as the song develops. ("Take the trigger from...") The Lowest Bitter is the album's final word, but its conclusions were made at the start, a band at top form and ready to tear down the edifice others built over their name.

LISTEN ON: Raging In The Plague Age
WATCH ON: Patty Lee


My favourite album of 2007 is...

Syd Butler, Les Savy Fav: Band Of Horses - Cease To Begin
Tim Harrington also responded to nominate, er, Let's Stay Friends. Evidently we didn't think about the wording of the request

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