Less than ten years ago, Les Savy Fav were still a cultish name to know for the hipster elite; several years later they grew a fanbase on the merit of their live shows, carried mostly by bear-like but nice frontman Tim Harrington. They’ve lost and added members here or there—this is their second record with longtime friend Andrew Reuland—but they’ve never drastically changed. They’ve always fallen somewhere along the lines of Polvo or early Modest Mouse without sounding like anyone in particular, really, and every player is key.
“Excess Energy” is a bit exhausting to listen to and somehow the most forgettable track, and “Sleepless in Silverlake” makes Los Angeles sound dull and of its own stereotype, of people who shape themselves in an all-night party city, which may or may not be true, as well as appropriate from the perspective of an East Coast band. But there’s excellent play throughout between guitarists Seth Jabour, who gets better over time, and Reuland, whose equally angular method is an appropriate pairing. And it may be that this record gives more focus to Jabour than in years past. But Harrington, possibly the perfect frontman, never gets lost, and oh, he’s got bite, especially on “Appetites,” which also boasts a great, driving guitar solo, and “Dirty Knails,” which nearly concludes with some spooky team harmonies.
Root for Ruin is neither a departure nor a mellowing out, but it moves a bit faster than previous records in its pacing. For a band not carrying the punk label, Les Savy Fav have always played with a remarkable amount of urgency, and now, in their late 30s, they’ve managed to bring that desperate energy a half step above their norm, which is perhaps the opposite that can be expected of most bands of their duration. Interestingly, their live reputation and aggressive musicianship disguise occasional lyrics about age slipping by and cynicism sinking in—something that’s well-hidden, if true. [Frenchkiss]
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