I almost forgot how good Les Savy Fav is. I still cherish my shower-cap clad LP version of 3/5
, but as time has passed, I've taken the band's musical output for granted. With the release of Inches
, these former Rhode Island art school students have thrust themselves back into the limelight, giving existing fans and curious onlookers another opportunity to witness their genre-bending blend of danceable electro-rock and energetic art-punk.
Inches is basically a singles compilation -- but not a mediocre assemblage of hits and their corresponding B-sides. The album was actually conceived a short time after the band's inception -- Les Savy Fav kept the goal of creating a cohesive "singles release" in mind as the years passed. Each of these eighteen songs was previously released on one of nine separate seven-inches from nine different labels, dating back to 1997. But unless you're one of those mega-record collecting nerds, you're probably missing a few of these beauties, so Inches is essential to rounding out your collection. The disc's track listing plays out in reverse chronological order (the newest tracks at the beginning); it's interesting to hear Les Savy Fav's current brand of methodical post-punk steadily devolve into its earlier state of discordant, Nation of Ulysses-flavored rhetoric. Whether the band is shakin' its collective art-rock ass to syncopated beats or barreling through treble-infused dueling guitar throwdowns, there's never a dull moment here.
The disc opens with the band's 2004 Monitor Records single, "Meet Me in the Dollar Bin". The sleek-sounding tune quickly slips into a crisply-minted rhythm as droning guitar trawls faintly below Harrington's agitated, repetitively yelled lyrics. It's a great hook for both the casual curiosity seeker and the longtime Fav fan, piquing interest in the rest of the disc's goodies.
A commanding bass line introduces the next track, "Hold on to Your Genre". Harrington's haunting presence is felt in full: he gasps and howls like a man possessed and deranged by his own music. Seth Jabour could be considered the musical butcher; his digitally delayed guitar cleanly slices the song into distinct sections. It's refined, but still full of the band's raw power. The disc hits a pinnacle a few tracks later. "The Sweat Descends" contains more of Jabour's remarkable guitar work, drawing you into the track with hypnotic phrasings. Harrington's confrontational vocals combine his best traits -- hyperactivity and restraint. I played "Sweat" over and over, grinning with satisfaction every time.
The band's earlier days are represented on tunes like "Rodeo" and "Blackouts on Thursday". Taken from the band's first 7" on Sub Pop, these tunes have a much rougher edge than the Fav's later work. Syd Butler's bass rhythms are buried in the mix, leaving the vocals and guitar as the primary (and sometimes only) aural reference points. "Our Coastal Hymn" is more in line with what the band has become, though it was released five years ago. The twitching guitar and hoarse vocals create an arty, angular anthem. Harrington never loses his bite as he yips, scowls and whispers his way through a variety of abstract lyrical topics.
"Reformat (Live)" scraps the band's rock 'n' roll assault for a completely unexpected spoken word breather. The short play follows a doomed submarine crew through various mini-acts. The multiple voices are presumably the various band members, each acting out several different characters as the twisted plot unravels. It's not something I'd listen to regularly, but it's a great break from the band's frenetic musical pace.
Whether Les Savy Fav are riffing along to staccato beats or traipsing through chaotic interpretations of post-punk, they always deliver unconventional via the conventional medium of rock 'n' roll. Inches delivers the group's sonic expose, eight years in the making, and it's still an awesome spectacle. Maybe next time I won't forget how good the Fav can be.