Les Savy Fav - Let's Stay Friends
Tom Blackburn 20/09/2007
Despite an insanely long absence from the studio - six years to be exact, though 2004's singles comp Inches should have been enough to tide you over, you greedy sods - New York art-punk mentalists Les Savy Fav have managed to maintain a pretty high profile.
It's probably fair to put this down to their ridiculous live shows and the fact that Inches was such an irresistible collection of complex yet ridiculously infectious post-punk, like a dancefloor-orientated Fugazi. But such a lengthy hiatus combined with the strength of the band's earlier work puts considerable weight on the shoulders of Let's Stay Friends. Does it live up to expectations? Almost.
Les Savy Fav have never been afraid of rocking the fuck out, and Let's Stay Friends' finest moments come when the band throws restraint out the window and goes for the jugular. The blistering 'The Year Before the Year 2000' is a razor-sharp blast of bloody-minded punk, with vocalist and lunatic-in-chief Tim Harrington screaming the usual tongue-in-cheek tale of sleaze and debauchery over bludgeoning guitar and elastic bass.
'The Equestrian' hits the same target, with Harrington spinning a laugh-out-loud funny story about shagging in the stables ('How many times did you think you could canter past my house / Before I called you to my stable for a little mouth-to-mouth?') over an overpowering punk racket, this time with added accordion.
Impressively for a band ten years into their career, Les Savy Fav continue to show daring in their experimentation, and unlike any of the band's earlier records, Let's Stay Friends is stuffed with guest spots - Enon, The Fiery Furnaces' Eleanor Friedberger and Nicholas Thorburn of Islands' all make appearances.
The album's opener 'Pots & Pans' is surprisingly subtle, delicate and emotionally charged, whilst 'The Lowest Bitter' and the dub-inflected 'Brace Yourself' are also successes. Guitarist Seth Jabour really steps up his game on the excellent 'Patty Lee', his textured subtlety offers a well-timed breather from the preceding lunacy of 'The Year Before the Year 2000'.
But some of the experiments misfire, and the album loses some momentum in its second half. The clumsy 'Comes & Goes' is a forgettable ballad, whilst the formulaic rocker 'Slugs in the Shrubs' isn't done any favours by its placing on the album, following the excellent 'Raging in the Plague Age'.
Let's Stay Friends is a bold and strong record with plenty of highlights, but there's nothing here that quite matches the fireworks of 'The Sweat Descends' or the cerebral aggression of 'Meet Me in the Dollar Bin'. Newcomers would be better off with Inches, but Les Savy Fav fans are unlikely to be too disappointed. See you on tour, then.