Every review of every Les Savy Fav record seems to have some reference to the band’s legendary live shows, and how the critic saw them and they were better live than on CD. Me, I’ve never had the pleasure to see Les Savy Fav live. I didn’t even discover the band until 2004 when an acquaintance, whom I bonded with over our collective love of The Hives, told me about the band. “There like Gang of Four, but like from France or something,” he said. His information on the band, they’re actually from Rhode Island, may have been wrong, but his Gang of Four reference was spot-on. The way that Seth Jabour uses power chords and Morse-code minimalist riffs, and the way vocalist Tim Harrington barks and shouts over his band’s thrashing are very similar to the way Andy Gill and Jon King used to in their late 70s heyday.
My acquaintance gave me copies of Rome (Written Upside Down) and 3/5, largely considered to be the band’s best studio albums, but looked down on by fans that’ve seen them live. Rome is probably the band’s masterpiece, as it saw Harrington moving to the forefront of the mix with the exit of their second rhythm guitarist, and focusing his lyrics. The bands has remained mostly quiet since the releases of Rome, releasing only one album since, 2001’s Go Forth, and are returning with their new studio album Let’s Stay Friends, an album of excellent post-punk and punk songs, cementing the band as one of the genre’s best.
The album begins with the one-two punch of the self-referencing “Pots & Pans,”which talks about a bands slow rise to fame, and the first single “The Equestrian,” a fast and furious slasher with a floating chorus. The album’s main strength is the fact that it flies by so fast, you almost don’t realize what you’ve heard. Songs are sequenced so they have less than two seconds between them, and all of the songs are less than 4 minutes and 20 seconds. The album’s best track is “Patty Lee,” a near-Prince, stomping funk song, with Jabour playing a riff that sounds like it’s coming from somewhere in the stratosphere, while the rest of the band plays more terrestrially. Other highlights are “The Year Before the Year 2000,” “Brace Yourself,” and “Comes and Goes.”
It remains to be seen if this album will finally break Les Savy Fav, as their version of punk and post-punk isn’t what is “hot” right now. A typical Fall Out Boy fan might not find what he wants here, but Let’s Stay Friends is a mostly-great record from one of America’s most unappreciated bands.
(French Kiss Records)