sobota, 14 sierpnia 2010
n their more than dozen years of existence, Les Savy Fav have gained a reputation as an exhilaratingly wild live act. While the band is known for working up a sweat-drenched crowd chaos, though, their career trajectory has been one of a band focused on truly honing their hard-charging craft. LSF's last full-length, 2007's Let's Stay Friends, represented the full realization of their sound, with exacting, catchy-as-hell songs that possessed the neck-snapping kinetic energy that was found in rougher form on previous records. A polished "crossover" effort, yeah, but also fun and rollicking in all the right places.
Root For Ruin, the band's fifth proper LP, re-asserts that sound rather than expanding upon or altering it. There's not many surprising moments on this record; if anything, it feels like the first Les Savy Fav album that sounds more comfortable in its own clothes than twitching to tear apart its own skin. This isn't necessarily a bad thing: LSF still excel at constructing miniature explosions of songs, even if they sound a bit tidier now.
Guitarists Seth Jabour and Andrew Reuland prove to be aces in the hole for this record, continuing to prove their worth as two of modern indie rock's smarter, more bruising axe-wielders. They layer colorful lines over each other like it's a competition, bringing the hook-laden pain on the smashing, bashing opener "Appetites" and "Lips n' Stuff". Elsewhere, they create nervewracking warning calls on "Excess Energies" that dovetail in and out of Tim Harrington's metronomic shouts. On the whole, there are still very few bands that do this arty, shitkicking stuff as well as Les Savy Fav do.
And yet Root For Ruin feels slightly sluggish, more so than any of the band's previous records. The distinct lack of new ideas plays a small part in this letdown-- "Dear Crutches"' dripping guitar line sounds a little too close to "The Sweat Descends", a standout on 2004's kickass singles collection Inches-- but mostly it's the presence of a few lukewarm cuts that make the record one of LSF's more minor efforts. "Sleepless in Silverlake" and "Let's Get Out of Here", notably, bring the album to a near-flatlining halt. The latter is a midtempo would-be rager that never takes off the ground, while the former is the life-in-Los-Angeles snoozer that you hoped Tim Harrington would never write. The slow jams aren't the only duds here, as the speed-addled "Calm Down"'s monochromatic chorus squarely locates the song on the wrong side of the "post-hardcore" tag.
Dull tempos, disengaging moments, recycled ideas-- all egregious offenses, yes. Luckily, Les Savy Fav have earned a decade's worth of goodwill to cushion a just-OK album or two landing in their discography, which makes Root For Ruin a well-deserved victory lap, if nothing else. The lone pair of surprising songs on Root For Ruin, the dissonant howler "Poltergeist" and menacing closer "Clear Spirits", serve as a gentle nudge as well that this band surely has some creative juice left in them. Let's hope they utilize it well in the future, because Les Savy Fav simply being Les Savy Fav can't retain its charm forever.