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Savages, Melvins, Cartwheel

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Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Savages

Silence Yourself

(Matador)

 

This ferocious debut may evoke both Siouxsie and the Banshees and Joy Division, but unlike many of today’s backward-looking bands, Savages aren’t remotely interested in nostalgia. There’s a feral urgency and blunt focus to their performances that stamp their music as insistently now. The all-female quartet employs coruscating guitar riffs, dubbed-out bass and stirring vocals to create taut, dynamic, and often explosive songs. The pounding rhythms of “I Am Here,” the brooding and sinuous “She Will,” and the whipped-up frenzy of “Husbands” command attention like few releases this year. While the outliers like the expansive and textural “Waiting for a Sign” and piano-led “Marshal Dear” aren’t as compelling, they’re also programmed as respites. Silence Yourself fares best when it refuses to fade into the background, its assertive narratives of desire and transgression beckoning listeners to implicate themselves in the grooves.

Melvins

Everybody Loves Sausages

(Ipecac)

 

Opening with a stomp-filled take on the song “Warhead,” which was originally performed by the English heavy metal band Venom, the latest album from these Northwest alt-rockers consists of 13 cover songs inspired by such artists as Throbbing Gristle, The Jam and more. Though many tracks make ample use of the group’s trademark sludgy sound, a surprisingly faithful rendition of Queen’s “Best Friend” and a nearly 12-minute interpretation of David Bowie’s “Station to Station” help keep listeners on their toes. Ably assisted by friends like Jello Biafra and Mark Arm, the Melvins somehow manage consistently engaging results no matter the material. “This record will give people a peek into the kind of things that influence us musically,” notes singer and guitarist Buzz Osborne. “We really like all of these songs, along with the bands who actually wrote this stuff, because first and foremost we are huge music fans.”

Cartwheel

Into the Valley

(independent)

In releasing Cartwheel’s debut album Into the Valley, musical duo Frank Carta and Steven Crabtree achieve a singing-songwriting dream born decades ago. The two describe the album’s sound as “down-home country-style fiddlin’ pedal steel songs for your friends and family,” and their music stays comfortably within that description throughout its 14 songs. One of the album’s dominant themes is redemption, as told through folksy anecdotes about food (“Seven Perfect Poundcakes”), cars (“Haley and the Bluebird”), Johnny Cash (“An Acorn”), and a number of struggling women protagonists (“Carmelina” et al.). Despite its occasional limitations, the album offers on-point vocal harmonies layered over smooth pedal steel and foot-stomping fiddle, all grounded in the plucked lines of an upright bass, making for an ultimately rewarding listen.

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