Savages & Toy live in London
- By Jack Preston -
- Apr 13, 2012
In the face of the never-ending ‘guitar music is dead’ doomsday calls in the music press there has been, as of late, a number of bands emerging from the South East of England eager to disprove this moribund theory.
This month may only be 13 days old but it has already provided some compelling evidence as to the current state of guitar music in the region, with fine releases from the likes of Yuck and Weird Dreams being matched with a string of alarmingly fine performances from Savages and Toy. The former of these two bands may have only performed a handful of gigs and command an online presence amounting to little more than a single live performance on Youtube, yet have managed to create the sort of buzz that record companies could only dream of organically cultivating.
Taking to the stage at London’s XOYO the four piece girl band seemed a little self-conscious as they carefully placed down set lists in front of a crowd comprised heavily of industry reps and artists such as Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos. With a meek “hello” singer Jehnny Beth stepped back in her heels as her fellow Savages unleashed a wall of noise as opener 'City’s Full' laid the foundations for a truly empathic performance.
A female Joy Division may sound like an unappetising proposal but it does someway go to explain the mood of much of Savages’ material, with Ayse Hassan’s relentlessly mesmerising bass lines sounding like a born again Peter Hook. However it’s when Beth’s shoegazing sensibilities are thrown to the wayside that things get really interesting, with numbers such as ‘Husbands’ and ‘I Need A Gun’ delivering more threat and anguish than Ian Curtis would have cared to reveal.
Guitarist Gemma Thompson evokes strong Nick Valensi connotations as her fingers dart up the fretboard at a rate of knots and her overgrown fringe magnificently masks expression, as she generously applies distortion to the latter part of a frenetic set. A perfect amount of attitude, falling somewhere between Warpaint and The Slits, is expertly controlled by Faye Milton from behind the drums.
The fact that Savages have played so few shows and are able to give such an accomplished performance is nothing short of astonishing, the only problem they now face is backing up their live shows with recordings. Even at such an early stage it’s fair to describe them as a very good band, the telling part will be if they can fulfil their potential and develop into something more.
Following such a performance wasn’t an enviable task and in truth Toy somewhat stuttered through their first two songs, with lead singer Tom Dougall offering almost too much of an assured presence. Flanked by great crops of hair on guitar, bass, drums and keys Dougall quickly marshalled his band, two of which who have emerged seemingly unscathed from indie forgettables Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong, through a thrilling (as yet to be named) psych-rock instrumental number which marked the turning point in the set.
Watched by sister Rose, once of The Pipettes, Dougall oozed steely determination with the look of a eternally clenched jaw as the silky torsos and mops of hair around him lost themselves in reverb and distortion, giving a well-rehearsed procedure an air of glorious spontaneity. A tight rendition of their new single ‘Motoring’ was welcomed among the more elongated and unknown numbers, not to say that they weren’t without merit.
As you would well expect Horrors comparisons have been generously applied but there’s something edgier and dirtier to Toy that set them apart, borrowing only certain features rather than an overall blueprint from their contemporaries.
By the time set closer ‘Left Myself Behind’ had reached its conclusion, after rounds of ramping up and furious repetition, it was hard to recall a time when a new band had slipped so seamlessly into the realms of must-see. Expect big things from both this year.