LES SAVY FAV – Root For Ruin

reviewed by James Yates | Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Les Savy Fav is like if Blink 182 went to art school. Before all of Les Savy Fav’s fans get up in arms — I mean this as a compliment. Skillfully combining the adolescent angst of ‘90s pop-punk with the expertise and musical talent of a band like Sonic Youth, Les Savy Fav have carved out an important place for themselves. They offer relatable emotion and fast punk riffs without forgoing music that sounds practiced and perfected. With track openers “Appetites” and “Dirty Knails,” they prove that while their songs would be easy to cover, they would prove difficult to replicate.

By the time the third track enters and front man Tim Harrington belts, “The teeth are bleached and the tits are tan, LA.” I found myself in a territory of the safely relatable. With cute cleverness and sly comment, Harrington punches out line after line of interesting thought. When he declares, “We’re just friends with benefits/We don’t even say we kiss” on “Lips ‘n Stuff,” I found myself smiling with the genius of the sympathy. And even when corny sentimentality rears its head, such as the concept “hammock for my heart,” you let it slide — because for any misstep, Les Savy Fav still earns your respect. It’s this type of sentimentality (often absent from music like this) that also earns the album some of its best moments — just look at the track “High and Unhinged” for proof. This could have easily been the album downer, but instead is one of the highlights, revealing a sweetness that’s successful. Besides, there is too much good nature built over a lot of tracks to let the occasional weak thought bring it down.

However, with all my enjoyment of the lyrics, there is nothing that compares to the guitar work by Seth Jaboour and Andrew Reuland. On tracks like “Sleepless in Silverlake,” “Let’s Get Out of Here,” and “Clear Spirits,” it’s obvious that these men are not comfortable resting on the pop-punk comfort the songwriting could allow. Throwing out blazing moves and exciting progressions, the guitar work keeps you on your toes. In fact, it’s almost laughable how often I found myself thinking, Wow, what an awesome start to a song — exclusively because of the work they were playing. They keep your interest and make sure you never move away too far.

This is not to say the album is perfect. Tracks like “Poltergeist” and “Calm Down” come and go without much notice. And, in the end, I found myself wondering how much play this album will really get. I know I liked it, and enjoyed many aspects…but that’s from a critical perspective. For some reason, despite my love, I feel a lacking connection. I can relate to the lyrics, but yet I still feel removed. For each great track there is no synergy. The connections are not there to create a cohesive album, merely a pile of good songs lumped together. Fans of their work are sure to find more of what they love here, and they may even make a few new ones in the meantime. Yet while I feel that it is really good, it might also be forgettable.

(Frenchkiss Records, 111 East 14th St. Suite 229, New York, NY 10003)

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