Les Savy Fav: OUI, LSF - Spectrum Culture (2024)

Les Savy Fav: OUI, LSF - Spectrum Culture (1)Les Savy Fav hasn’t been there for 14 years, and the world got… well, not great. For nearly two decades — from 1997’s 3/5 to 2010’s Root for Ruin Tim Harrington and his band of chaotic Rhode Islanders put out banger albums that beautifully melded the harsh loudness of art-rock and hardcore in a way that, most crucially, channeled the impish spirit of mischief present in the best of punk bands. That spirit carried over into their live shows, which was the way to get into Les Savy Fav. Aside from their talent as musicians and performers, Harrington seemed bound to the belief that good songs were memorable, but a shirtless guy crowdsurfing on a small ladder before using it to climb into the venue’s balcony — all while still singing. If you want to know the exact type of energy to expect, look no further than their performance of “World Got Great,” the final track from their newest record, OUI, LSF, on Late Night With Seth Meyers, whose Studio 8G Band has included guitarist Seth Jabour and bassist Syd Butler for almost a decade. We won’t spoil it for you, but make sure you watch to the end. You’ll get it.

Les Savy Fav never broke up, but they fell into a terrible silence following the tours for Root for Ruin. They’d play together occasionally but largely didn’t make a peep, leaving a void of abrasive joy that many bands attempted to fill, but never quite nailed. OUI, LSF’s return comes at a time when the world needs their brand of energy the most. And not just their raucous energy, but their stretches of strange, vibey moodiness (see: “Sleepless in Silverlake” or “Brace Yourself”), which allowed the band to explore new territories in the same way that, say, Liars were doing with their self-titled album just two weeks before Les Savy Fav’s high watermark Let’s Stay Friends. Opener “Guzzle Blood” (that’s Jesus’ blood he’s guzzling, naturally — it never failed him yet!) sounds like a fire alarm is blaring in the background the entire time, but Harrington’s screams threaten to drown it out regularly. Les Savy Fav are back, and it’s like they were never gone.

If “Guzzle Blood” had been released in 2012, or even dropped it onto Ruin, would anyone have batted an eyelash? Probably not, and they wouldn’t if it had been “Barbs” or “Legendary Tippers” or “Void Moon” in first position, either. Les Savy Fav figured out their niche very early, and if OUI, LSF shows one thing, it’s that they haven’t lost a step. Yet, it’s just one song later that the energy gets weird and angular, with the bassy, spacey “Limo Scene,” which makes a play for just a little more restraint as he sings about letting someone, fully consensually, “unzip my soul” in the backseat of the titular vehicle. Sometimes it really works, as with the too-brief “Dawn Patrol,” in which Harrington’s distorted and manipulated voice monologues about young, summery love in the light of “some bro house ten miles from town.” It doesn’t even last two minutes and Harrington is, politely, cheesy. “I kinda stop breathing when your hand touches mine/ If the world ends this morning I’m pretty much fine,” he admits sweetly as the layers of looping guitars and synth noise threaten to engulf him before dissipating in an instant. One song later, “Somebody Needs a Hug” keeps him buried underneath chopped-up drums and wailing guitars. It feels like Harrington is using the music around him as a shield as he sings, “Sometimes terror needs you to/ Try a little tenderness/ Sometimes Hell/ Needs to be held.” Other times, like with the pretty-but-pointless “Racing Bees,” you’re left wondering why such an inventive band didn’t do more with the fragment we get.

Your mileage may vary on whether these songs work or not — or if you wish they’d just make wall-to-wall bangers. It’s a fair question — “Don’t Mind Me” practically begs for a Harrington solo album, where he’s able to croon, “But, babe, we’re falling so fast it blinds me/ You used to love me, now you just don’t mind me,” without bringing the mood down. Then again, it almost makes the one-two punch of “Oi! Division” and “Barbs” feel like more of a double-throat-punch simply because they come after the bellowing Harrington reduced his voice to match the dulcet organ tones of “Don’t Mind Me.” Both of these sides of LSF are fantastic to see, but the energy of “Barbs” and “World Got Great” feels diminished by the fact that the half-baked (truly, it feels like the lyrics just cut out halfway through) “Nihilists” resides in between them. It’s a shame, because the wall-of-sound that overtakes the second half of the song is some of the most purely beautiful stuff Les Savy Fav have recorded to-date. Why couldn’t it have been earlier, when it didn’t feel like steam being lost?

It’s a shame, because “World Got Great,” despite being the closer of OUI, LSF, feels like the best summation of the world LSF have reemerged into, like cicadas that can comprehend the weirdness of the world they now buzz around in. The song opens with the kind of disillusionment you’d expect. “I’m out of cash, I’m unemployed/ I can’t create, I can’t destroy/ Pick your poison, say your prayers/ This map shows nothing anywheres,” he sing-shouts. Then, his tone shifts to something more positive, almost hopeful, as he fantasizes about, one day, being able to shepherd the world into a better place than where we’re now stuck. “This life could be a coffin/ It could be a chrysalis,” he posits, his sentiment an acknowledgment of the darkness in the world, and its ability to create beauty and splendor. For a band that used to root for ruin, growing up to want to help the world get great is some dynamite progress.


For a band that used to root for ruin, growing up to want to help the world get great is some dynamite progress.

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Les Savy Fav: OUI, LSF - Spectrum Culture (2024)
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