Review Summary: A truly unique musical experience. If they fixed up a couple missteps, Let's Stay Friends may have been a classic.
I have a very shaggy dog. It’s grey, white, and has a little splash of brown across the back of its head. The thing about my dog is that I truly believe there is no dog quite like it. Sure, my dog jumps on people and ***s and eats constantly, but instead of being shaggy like, say, a German Sheppard, her hair is clumpy and messy, like a poodle’s, only it covers her entire body. She cuddles with cats and tries to make friends with other unwilling dogs. She hates old people, but she loves kids. She’s ate so many chocolate bars that her teeth are almost permanently brown, but she’s never been sick once. Her nose is squashed but her mouth and lips stick out, making it look like she has buck teeth. But despite her defects, she’s really not that ugly, and plus, she’s cuddly as can be.
Les Savy Fav are kind of like my dog. They’re different and really unlike almost any other band, and their eccentric nature--their truly outlandish live shows have brought the band most of its underground and mainstream attention--but once you truly spend some time with their new full length, Let’s Stay Friends
, you find that it’s as accessible as any Modest Mouse or Arcade Fire record. The New York-based band blends arty melodies and song progressions with yelled hardcore vocals and cryptic but emotional lyrics. Les Savy Fav has been going at it for just over twelve years, but their fourth mind-*** of a full-length is their best yet, and by far.
To truly realize Let’s Stay Friends
variedness, just take a look at the first two tracks. “Pots & Pans” is as atmospheric and as normal as a Modest Mouse song: a clear, echoing riff is underlined with fuzzed out dance-punk riffs and the drummer plays softly but quickly in the background. The vocals, sung by Tim Harrington, are loud and melodic; the lyrics are cryptic and dripping with unknown emotion. Crowd noise seeps into the background, and “Pots & Pans” ends with you turning down the volume in a hurry, overwhelmed by all the fuzz and the noise. It’s striking, yet simple and pleasant at the same time. “The Equestrian” may be the complete opposite of the first track. It’s much less subtle than “Pots & Pans”: the almost grunge-y opening chords could be the beginning of a Foo Fighters song, and then the drum roll rushes in Harrington’s yelled and forceful vocals, with the lyrics being less cryptic and more personal and as emotional as the lyrics on “Pots & Pans”. The verses easily recall a cleaner Fugazi, while the melodic and shout-along chorus is as radio-friendly as recent Rise Against and Green Day, and Harrington’s vocals shift from the forcefulness of the verses. Instrumentation is also top-notch, as the drums are fast but not too loud, and the guitars are way too loud but played superbly. But the true feeling you receive is the awe of how one band can do two completely different styles of music and excel at them both. Les Savy Fav seems to revel in its idiosyncrasy for most of Let’s Stay Friends
, and to the band’s benefit. “The Year Before the Year 2000” is a funked-out tribute to 1999, with a rampaging bassline and guitars that are simultaneously atmospheric and powerful. “What Would Wolves Do"” is so beat-driven that you can dance to it and Harrington truly shines here, utilizing soaring falsettos and ominous growls within ten seconds.
There are some missteps in Let’s Stay Friends
, but the good outweighs the bad here by far. “Kiss Kiss Is Getting Old” is too charming and simple to fit with heavyweights like “Slugs In the Shrubs”, which is unfortunately placed right before it on the track list. “Kiss Kiss Is Getting Old” features female vocals, but they really aren’t very good female vocals: they’re weak and unimpressive, and don’t strike the same emotional cord as they would if Harrington would sing it. Unfortunately, Harrington yells the chorus, and what could’ve been a passable barren ballad is now overblown and pretentious, and a fuzzed-out and rather horrible guitar lead used to end the song doesn’t help the cause much. But while songs like “Kiss Kiss” and the rather forgettable “Patty Lee” hinder an otherwise perfect record, the good tracks here are truly good, and rank among some of the best art-punk (to loosely describe Les Savy Fav’s sound) songs made in the past five years. “Comes & Goes” is truly forlorn, with its Southern-rock styled guitar riff and thumping and raging drum patterns. Female vocals are also used in “Comes & Goes”, only this time they seems stronger and confident, almost like they’re layered and dramatically thin at the same time. Again, Les Savy Fav hits you with the double-punch, as the follow-up “Scotchgard the Credit Card” resembles a somewhat-heavier and great pop-punk song. The chorus is soaring and memorable, and almost Nine Inch Nails-esque electronic effects fill out a song that also features particularly strong guitar and drum leads.
Les Savy Fav may be different. But let’s not hold that against them: their oddness has resulted in a great record that easily trumps anything else they’ve ever done. In the crowded musical landscape of today, it’s good to hear something fresh and unusual, and see a band not be afraid to try new things and explore unexplored area. I may not like Les Savy Fav as much as my dog. But I’ll definitely recommend this as a pick-up at your next stop at the record store.
Now I have to go take my dog out to go to the bathroom.