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Savages: Silence Yourself (Matador) 

Savages' debut is like a violent summer storm — humid, noisy, thrilling, a bit frightening. It's perhaps the most exciting dispatch of British art-punk since PJ Harvey's Rid of Me back in 1993 — the 2-minute-long soundblast of "Hit Me" rivals "Me-Jane" for lean ferociousness. Like Harvey's classic album, Silence Yourself has a sheen of lunacy.

Singer Jehnny Beth plays the roles of maenad, preacher, boogeyman and gutterpunk. The opening song, tellingly titled "Shut Up," sets the mood. Underneath a pulse of ambient sound, sampled dialogue from an old movie plays. A woman's voice says "I'm trying to be patient" just before the bass line cuts in, an angular riff that recalls old Wire and PiL albums. Beth's vocals are delivered with Siouxsie-esque melodrama: "I'm like the bullets to the sun," she says.

The themes that run through Silence Yourself are both sociopolitical — being fed up, recognizing the madness by which the world operates — and mystical. Beth talks as much about metaphysical trap doors through which she longs to escape as she lodges complaints about "the system," many of which are downright feminist.

The song "Husbands" features the refrain "Get rid of it/Yeah, yeah"; the title of "I Am Here" says it all - it's Beth's declaration of personhood, in which she says "I don't wanna hide" and "No more fear." On "Me-Jane" PJ Harvey imagined a world in which Jane finally tells Tarzan to just shut the fuck up. Savages starts there and spins an entire cosmology out of the impulse. It's mesmerizing.

More by Sean Bottai

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