Plumbiferous Media

Root for Ruin – Les Savy Fav

Sep 19th 2010
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Root for Ruin - Les Savy FavLes Savy Fav
Root for Ruin
Score: 63

New York indie-punk band Les Savy Fav’s latest release was scheduled to hit shelves on the 14th, although it ended up being released earlier due to an extremely early leak. Release curiosities aside, Root for Ruin is an interesting, if not particularly great album. It’s clearly Les Savy Fav, and at the same time a clear development in the band’s evolving style. It’s good to see that Les Savy Fav is far from stagnating, Root for Ruin being the band’s fifth album; still, it would have been even nicer had Root for Ruin been a terrific album.

Frontman Tim Harrington’s vocals are unsurprisingly quite in line with Les Savy Fav’s sound – half Mclusky-ish punk and half relatively standard rock. But whatever the mix of Harrington’s vocals across Root for Ruin – not constant across the album, but rather fluid depending on the track in question – it’s clear that there’s a good bit of energy behind his voice. That energy, combined with the sharper side of Harrington’s voice, goes a great way towards giving Les Savy Fav its edge. It’s not always successful; certain parts of Root for Ruin end up much flatter than others, visible in the contrast between the early and late sections of “Let’s Get Out of Here.” Still, Harrington is, more or less, quite successful at hitting the ideal range between yelling and melody for Les Savy Fav’s style.

Les Savy Fav is, it must be said, more about sound than words. All the same, the sad state of Root for Ruin‘s lyrics can’t be ignored. When it comes to lyrics, Les Savy Fav relies more upon repetition than innovation, and it clearly shows. Root for Ruin alternates between mediocre lines (usually repeated five or so times) and embarrassing lines such as “Lips ‘n Stuff”‘s “My body is a book / And you’ve been thumbing every page.” The lesser emphasis on lyrics lightens the blow of this weakness, but it certainly can’t erase it completely.

Root for Ruin opens with “Appetites,” a great example of a typical Les Savy Fav track. While it clearly follows a fairly standard punk structure, cycling through a number of complimentary, short, heavily punctuated lines, it is in instrumentation not very punk at all. The result is, as can reasonably be expected, quite interesting. Not only does Root for Ruin have a unique sound, but while one line may be repeated quite a few times in a row, lines switch out with one another often enough that the band can keep a track interesting for its entire length (although that said, only three of the eleven tracks top four minutes).

This, however, should not be taken to mean that Root for Ruin is particularly good. Really, it just isn’t particularly bad. While only a few of the tracks can fairly be heavily criticized (think “Sleepless in Silverlake”), nothing really stands out as excellent. Sure, there’s the extremely interesting “Poltergeist,” which builds up about as much tension as anyone can rightfully stand before releasing it in a surprisingly successful Arcade Fire moment, but not much about the album is memorable, other than its vague enjoyability. The album throws quite a few surprises, but none of them are ground-shakingly brilliant.

Root for Ruin, in the end, is neither excellent nor terrible. Instead, it falls right around the middle. Occasionally inventive instrumentals and solid vocals are countered by mediocre lyrics and repetition, such that Root for Ruin‘s best elements are, while still present, perhaps less clear than they could – and should – be. As such, Root for Ruin is a bit better than average, but not enough.

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