(written upside down)
Les Savy Fav
"Soon after this hauntings began in the house. Cocks' feathers smeared in blood were found among the cushions and unlucky signs were scrawled on the wall in charcoal, sometimes low down as if a dwarf had written them, sometimes high up as if written by a giant- a man hanging, the word Rome written upside down... Then appeared the name Germanicus, upside down, every day shortened by a letter."
— I, Claudius, Robert Graves
"In Robert Graves' I, Claudius there is a section where someone hires a witch to hex Germanicus. The magic employed is more psychological than supernatural. Much more insidious than a direct attack, its goal is to build paranoia and to terrorize. Ancient Rome broke wild Europe leaving in its wake bureaucracy, treason, and science. ROME(written upside down) is our hex against all that in hope that the dying Gaul may recover yet."
— Les Savy Fav (http://www.lessavyfav.com)
"THE DYING GAUL: Fourth and fifth century Greek sculpting had never depicted such a subject. It must have been a startling innovation at the time of its creation. The moustache, matted hair and twisted collar identify the warrior as a barbarian. He supports himself on one arm as his strength ebbs away. With the realism characteristic of Hellenistic art, his skin appears hard and dry, the muscles heavy in contrast to the ideal Greek type. Blood oozes from the open wound. However, the sculptor introduces these realistic touches with artistic restraint. Such details only make the artist's intent more clear. It is a concept that goes beyond physical pain to speak of the anguish of defeat which destroys the spirit rather than the flesh.."
— (quoted at http://www.lessavyfav.com, from http://www.sculpturegallery.com/sculpture/dying_gaul.html)
This trio of quotes is essential in describing Les Savy Fav's aims, inspirations, and scope. Equally dominating and commanding reason and emotion, the artifacts of science and the mechanics of art, melody and noise, these Rhode Island art-students and Brooklyn residents incorporate both the wild impressionism of the Fauvists and the angularity of postmodernism in their music, "music that is the soundtrack to building rollercoasters." Playing their mixture of "art rock and rock rock," Les Savy Fav are Seth Jabour (guitar), Syd Butler (bass), Harrison Haynes (drums), and Tim Harrington (vox), their manic, ferocious frontman. The band is notorious for its stage presence, harassing concertgoers who won't dance, cutting audience members' hair against their will, swinging microphones, and dashing into the crowd.
At a show I was privileged to witness, Harrington, wearing a backwards pirate mask and carrying a flashlight attached to helium balloons, crawled through the crowd as his band set up their equipment, shining his light in peoples' faces, jostling, and confusing audiencemembers. During the show the heavyset, red-bearded punk rock pirate scrambled about the stage, spun his mic around, and ran into the curtains to hide while singing. For the song "Adoptuction" from the album Go Forth, Harrington inflated a balloon during an extended instrumental period, scrawling his own beared face on it. As he sang about being kidnapped and his parents' refusal to pay the ransom money, he squeezed the balloon, contorting its features into a distended mask of insanity. At the song's climax, he committed metaphorical suicide by exploding his own head.
ROME (written upside down) (a title that cannot be represented in text) is the band's 2000 EP, a segue between their 1999 albums Cat and the Cobra and 3/5 and 2001's Go Forth. Despite its short length and the departure of second guitarist Gibb Sife, ROME is, at five songs and 17 minutes, probably the greatest representation of their sound: tense and anarchic, yet structured and coherent. The record takes its title and inspiration from the Graves quote above, found on their website. Inspired by the fall of the Roman empire and a Hellenistic statue of a dying Gaul barbarian (see http://mandarb.net/ virtual_gallery/ sculptures/ gaul.shtml), ROME is characterized by taut melodies and musical anxiety accompanied by lyrics which cascade between surrealistic babel and concise satire.
L E S S A V Y F A V
"Okay." I.C. Timer opens with electronic blips and boops, igniting into the guttering flame of guitars and Harrington's spoken vocals, bursting into a scream: "On a plain/in a storm/There they prayed and there we got born/Rarely made./In RARE FORM!" On the lines, "God bless the cyborgs at your door/Retching rich regrets on the bathroom floor/It feels like It's been here seventy se-se-se seventy times before," he evokes The Who's famously acid delivery of "my ge-ge-generation," but uses an electronic skipping cut-up to effect the stutter. It's powerfully jarring on the first listen. Harrington's vocals employ puns and double meaning to shift subject: "We had the jury hung! We had the Judge Strung up!" In the track's closing he dreams of mechanization: "I'd trade my eyes/for satellites,/I'd trade my hands/for iron clamps," and it sounds like a damned good idea.
Asleepers Union is almost uncharacteristically sedate, opening with melodic strummed guitar and almost tender vocals. "It broke the backs of the trees in the forest./It brought the rats to their knees in the city." A picked interlude is beautiful and shows the band's heart before the song takes off in an oblique critique of modern society and the media, the guitar trailing upward into sharp registers of dissonance, yet still reserved. "Everyone prays that the facts are to blame/When the TV goes off their makeup remains."
"It takes skill. It takes will. If you've got it then you've got it if you don't then there's a pill." In These Woods begins with buzzing electronics and these whispered exhortations over quavering moans that erupt into a lullulating warcry and a searing attack of guitar and bass that DEMANDS movement in response. Harrington's lyrics deploy dense wordplay: "I'm afraid we're Hanseled. I'm afraid we're cancelled and Gretled. I'm afraid we don't have the mettle to make it in these woods. The empire state made out of ginger cake/came tumbling down before we had a taste." The song closes with an automatic mantra of seasons: "Summer settles, Fall faints, Spring Spreads, Winter Waits, Dusk Consents, Dawn Redecorates."
Hide me from Next February delivers Harrington's most elaborate lyrics, a disjointed tale that only hints at meaning, perhaps at feelings of anxiety over history's legacy of pain, from the Roman Empire to the superpowers of today: "We've got arms in the armory, facts in the factory, sense in the century- This century of centipedes- This century is killing me- This century lied. I hope that we do better next time." The bass is towering, the drums are massive, the guitar stabs and slices as Harrington sings of the fate of a despot, the hatred of his humane family members: "I would like to see the tyrant's daughter, so upset by what her father taught her, I would like to see the tyrant's son, so outraged at what his father's done, I would like to see the tyrant's mother, so ungrateful she did not smother," and the pride of his cruel progenitor: "I would like to see the tyrant's dad, I'll bet he's glad (yeah yeah)", breaking into the frantic and insistent chorus: "Hide me from next February!"
ROME is introduced with whirling electronics that are joined by a fuzzed-out, static bass drum beat and staccato guitar that propells the song into a perfect post-punk melody, absolutely captivating in its anarchaic grace. The song clatters all over the musical landscape and Harrington's lyrics are enthralling as usual. The EP's most bizzare lines are issued in the song's first few seconds: "We're in a great deal of trouble for just a wee bit of fun/Upon kissing the princess she turned into a stun gun!" Again the lyrics transmute through the quantum tunneling of Harrington's puns: "Seating Ceasar in the mezzannine, his cloak soaked in methylene blue-light special in the red light district there's a blue light special in the RED LIGHT DISTRICT!" Again the lyrics are a subtle, nonsense shrouded satire of modern life, and Harrington beats critics to the punch with the faux-bitter lines "I went from post-modern protogé/to post-modern passé/and retched from the get go,/passion's so retro." Les Savy Fav embody passion and spirit, wild beasts who explode with creative force.
L E S S A V Y F A V
ROME(written upside down):
1-I.C. Timer 2-40
2-Asleepers Union 5-12
3-These Woods 3-02
4-Hide me from Next Feburary 2-51
les savy fav appear thanks to
frenchkiss records -frenchkiss.com
All songs by LSF -lessavyfav.com
Niclas Vernhes recorded this at the Rare Book Room. You are true blue
you french man.
Members(from left to right)
Bonus Vox: Chloe Seymore, Marueen Harrington, the phone sex lady, and Amy Carlson
PO Box 59 London N22 1AR England
PO Box 577375 Chicago IL 60657 USA
Made in England
L E S S A V Y F A V
On a plain/in a storm/
There they prayed and there we got born
Rarely made. In rare form.
Fairly played and fairly forlorn.
God bless the cyborgs at your door
Retching rich regrets on the bathroom floor
It feels like it's been here 70 x before
We (they) wish they (we) would loose their (our) appetites for alcohol and acolytes
Still the starving set their sites on more.
We had the jury hung!
We had the Judge Strung up!
At the gallows steps the 12 civillians slept.
The drunken Doctor almost cried when he saw the cell divide.
"In 30 days and 3 weeks time this new body will fit fine."
Sit down. Stand up.
This order is a setup.
This setup is a setup.
I'd trade my mind for the written line!
I'd trade my eyes for satellites!
I'd trade my hands for iron clamps!
I'd trade my lungs for vacuum pumps!
That's what we wanted!
You know who built this house.
You-know-who will tear it down.
It broke the backs of the trees in the forest.
It brought the rats to their knees in the city.
You thought you were safe,
You thought you were strong,
A kiss and a cough and everyone's gone
The anchor's away and the co-host's in crisis;
The mice, they will play, while the lion's in stasis.
Everyone prays that the facts are to blame
When the TV goes off the make-up remains.
Tenitus sets in,
The night is so young still they're waiting for him.
The witness is singing but we won't let her win.
This suit fits me much too tight,
Still I'll wear it on my wedding night.
I'm over my head in a shallow water bed.
-In These Woods
It takes skill.
It takes will.
If you've got it then you've got it
If you don't then there's a pill.
They watered down the poison in this town.
They raised us wrong.
They raised us strong.
They raised us up with arms 10 feet long.
I'm afraid we're Hansled.
I'm afraid we're cancelled and Gretled.
I'm afraid we dont have the mettle to make it in these woods.
The empire state made out of ginger cake
came crumbling down before we got a taste.
-Hide me from Next February
What holds you up when the Earth lets you down? What holds you up when gravity's corrupted? I hope Atoms are enough cause eve sure ain't comin'. The temperauture's up in the afternoon sun. The hand threw the breaker but the circuit's still humming. The man tried to break her but Miss Switch kept on running. She ran from the papist, She ran from the crown, She ran to her study, and wrote all this down:
I want to keep the perfect flowers from the florist;
The grew in private deep inside the thickest forest.
When you snip them down you almost hear them sigh,
There they're drying asking "Why do we have to die?"
What holds you up when you're ready to go? -when the seconds hand is-ticking?
Can you feel it slip away? 80,000 everydays.
When one world says, "Wait!" The next says, "Step aside." When one planet says "Stop!" The next says, "Let it ride." Fuck the boulders up the hill, I see pictures in the clouds. We've got little yellow pills, We've got great big black shrouds.
We've got arms in the armory, facts in the factory,
sense in the century- This century of centipedes-This century is killing me-This century lied. I hope that we do better next time.
I would like to see the tyrant's daughter, so upset by what her father taught her
-son-outraged-done. mother-regretful she did not smother. I would like to see the tyrant's dad, I'll bet he's glad.
Hide me from next February!
I've grown fat and I've grown tired, Kick my ass now, I was once admired. I've grown tired and I've grown fat but there's one more thing so much better than that-
I'm already gone.
We're in a great deal of trouble
for just a wee bit of fun.
Upon kissing the princess she turns into a stun gun!
And the young ones wait in the field,
hoping that their Detroit will heal.
It's amazing how sentimental they get when they realize we're taking it away
God knows who built Rome today.
Seating Ceasar in the mezzannine,
his cloak is soaked in methylene blue-light special in the red light district.
I went from post-modern protogé
To post-modern passé
and retched from the get go,
passion's so retro.
Big spenders stand down-
the fashion of forego has taken the town!
We're in a great deal of trouble
for just a wee bit of fun.
Upon taking to the skies,
we burnt up in the sun.
The standards at the office have been changed,
A sneaky pact has been arranged.
If you'd prefer insurance to the plague
take it out. Put it away.
Born in a bang in a house up in flames
the dead snake system remains.
Take it out, take it away.