Monday, October 5, 2009

#87. 'You live how you live, I'll die how I...'

Les Savy Fav "The Sweat Descends"

I'm noticing that there's a bit of a bias towards stuff that could be claimed as part of the post punk revival on this list. It's probably a function of when I was just becoming more of a music obsessive, but I seem to think of it as the first real movement from my time actually paying attention to music outside of the mainstream. The upshot of this is that it forced me to look backwards to not only the initial post-punk wave - leads into my Pere Ubu/Fall/Wire obsession - but through lot of other iterations that the genre went through before the giant revival that Interpol popularized. It was this part that probably sent my musical listening into overdrive, between the discovery of Bastro feeding into my math-rock and post-rock obsessions, NoMeansNo opening me up to hardcore and jazz-punk and eventually Cardiacs realigning my musical bearings drastically once I got my head around Sing to God. With all those things happening in fairly quick succession it was easy for great bands who weren't so much standouts as just solid examples of the basic tenets of the genre done right, so Les Savy Fav fell through the cracks for a little while. It really wasn't til I sat down and gave Inches and Go Forth a good listen that their particualr brand of genius really clicked for me, but better late than never I suppose.

That said, I've loved "The Sweat Descends" for much longer than I've loved LSF proper. I first got Inches right around the time of its release and it was the only song that really grabbed me, and it's pretty obvious now why that was. Tim Harrington's go-for-broke vocal may have been the hook for me but every subsequent listen only serves to underline how great guitarist Seth Jabour and bassist syd Butler's instrumental chemistry is. Jabour's guitar work is damn near perfect on here, from the ear catching, delay-laden opening riff to the chorus' interplay between the vocalized section and a lone Andy Gill-inspired guitar line in the background, but it works best if you listen to it in conjunction with Butler's counterpoints. It comes back to one of those musical biases I have: there's nothing I love more than when bass is used as a lead instrument or at least not confined to playing the same riff as the guitar an octave lower. It's not quite the first case here, but there's a degree of interplay between Butler's bass and Jabour's guitar that just amplifies their individual power. The little fills Butler throws in during Jabour's more rhythmic riff in the chorus, or the way the simple bass line in the verses mixes so well with the echoing guitar part, it's just a testament to the power of interplay in the hands of players who know what they're doing to some extent. Add to this the fact that they don't repeat their awesome first verse riff for the second go round, instead adopting a much crunchier rhythm riff while drummer Harrison Haynes gets all disco with the hi hat and it's even a bit progressive in its structure.

If it weren't for the plethora of instrumental joys the song offers it could easily be Tim Harrington's show though. The dude is firing on all cylinders here, achieving heights of mania I've never heard him re-attain while never getting in the way of his band mates' groove. Just listen to the lead up to the first chorus; as Jabour's guitar riff goes into overdrive Harrington get more and more agitated vocally until the whole band explodes in tandem as the chorus hits. It's a damned special moment, but a lot of it's greatness comes from the way Harrington doesn't even finish his thought ('you live how you live, I'll die how I...') before belting out the 'Wake me up when we get to heaven' hook. I'm not entirely sure what it's about in the end, my best guess is that it's treating death as a giant party, maybe with a dash of 'I'm takin' you all with me' thrown in, but it's a fantastically frenzied vocal performance, definitely what hooked me on the song long before its instrumental versatility came to mind.

Coming up tomorrow: The case of the ex with a dose of maturity.

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