Les Savvy Fav – Let’s Stay Friends

Originally released September 18th 2007. Review originally published 17th January 2008.

Let’s Stay Friends was an unlikely number five in the NME’s albums of 2007, but please don’t hold that against Les Savy Fav; one look at them will tell you image is just about the last thing they’re about. And as if you need another reason for judging them on their merits, not only did these thirty something sons of Rhode Island School Of Art And Design look like bar hops from nowhere, they also trade in the kind of freakish leftfield power chops which would have many of their chart compatriots running full tilt for the safety of their Korgs.

It was an album a long time in gestation – their singles compilation Inches was released in 2004 and their last original work Go Forth 2001 – but in a remarkable year for American music of all hues, it rose seemingly without a trace to become blurted out in the same self-conscious breaths of Shoreditch hipsters as nouveaux wastrels like Glasvegas, The Ting Tings and Joe Lean and The Bloody Jing Jang Jong. Added to this, their remarkable live shows – the highlight of which is frequently the bearded, rotund and follically challenged lead singer Tim Harrington’s costume eccentricities – were also in danger of portraying the band as some kind of burlesque one trick pony.

Such a view would be a crime tantamount to letting slip that you still think The Twang are at the cutting edge of anglophile rock and roll, as Let’s Stay Friends deserves your attention not because it’s refreshingly not indie by numbers fluff, but because it’s a record possessed with the kind of maniacal energy which men of their age shouldn’t be able to come by naturally. Picture The Hold Steady if they’d been raised on Beefheart and LSD rather than Springsteen and suds and you’re in the ballpark. The garage squared naïve ferocity of We Are Scientists? Sure. The tubular funk-punk sound of !!!? Of Course. It works on those levels, but it’s still not a conventional record in spite of itself like Boys And Girls In America was and neither does it seek to exclude anybody – we’re all welcome along for the ride, but it’s going to be a far out one.

Perhaps understandably when the quintet emerged blinking into the light after years in the underground following by a long spell of hibernation, there’s a sense of vulnerability, opener Pots and Pans sounding vaguely autobiographical when Harrington sings “There was a band, called the Pots and Pans, they made this noise that people couldn’t stand”. His concerns are unnecessary though, as following track The Equestrian manages to smear the viscerality of their live events into a blur of minor chords and an unseemly rush of tempo shifts, whilst in homicidal hooker tale Patty Lee they have themselves a legitimate rock and roll record worth punching the air to. Occasionally his distinctive growl is muzzled to great effect, as on the semi-plaintive Comes and Goes and the almost pastoral Brace Yourself – but it’s left to the pounding chaos of Rage In The Plague Age with it’s triumphant valedictory “Draw up the draw bridge, draw down the blinds, everyone in here’s getting high tonight” to enunciate what they’re all about.

An album that rings with the sound of fucks not being given for the scenester world around it, Let’s Stay Friends highlights how in the last couple of years it’s been the capacity for the public to absorb an increasingly alternative menu which has changed, not the music itself. So on this basis, why couldn’t a subsequent Les Savy Fav album go straight to the top of the charts here and over there. It worked for The Shins, right?

 

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