The hardest thing about digesting distinct styles is making them sound fresh. In the interim between the close of the ’70s and the precipice of 2017, funk, glam and disco had their wave, subsequent revivals and to most they’ve been strip-mined for all they’re worth. But Savoy Motel just don’t know how to take “no” for an answer, and its a damn blessing that they won’t. They take that triplet of genre cues as a jumping off point and dive through an alternate universe where the punks and the disco kids worked hand in hand, sawed off the barrel and found a way to make boogie raw and unrepentant. They pull on the outsized attitude of glam and wield it like a battering ram against any who refuse to get down. They find the simmering and squirming groove at the heart of their eponymous debut and they jack it full of amyl nitrate and High Karate. It’s a record that, while built on familiar forms, converges like a lost artifact of dirty funk freakanetics. It’s a prototype of glam glory and electronic infancy thrown in the blender, blades out and stomping in platformed perfection.
The real clincher is that they dig in deep on the greasy weirdness of any and all of the forms that they inhabit. They stroll through Eno’s queasiest catalogs, tracing his exit from Roxy’s feather boa n’ leatherette S&M boogie and into a his ascent through lyrical pop that picked at the freak impulses of the insomniac soul. The band scotch tapes those aesthetics to an 72-hour binge of Arthur Russel’s swaggering disco divergences and Gary Numan’s panting portent for artificial intelligence with a libido, picking up their rhythmic beats and committing them to memory. As evidenced by the band’s own fashion flare they’re raiding the closets of Slade, Geordie, Bolan and Sweet; but they’re not sticking around pumping quarters into the jukebox for a night of nostalgic waxing. They’re just stealing the clothes off the passed out members of their entourage, nicking an amp and pedal or two to get that fat sound, and making off into the alleys like good degenerate youth.
They’re stomping those hard-heeled boots into the fuzzed-wah floorboards and letting the vibe seep out into the room. It’s a record that feeds on the past, while ignoring the reality. They even make prog a strange bedfellow on the epic centerpiece, “International Language.” It’s the best ‘what if?’ riff that’s never got its shot. As a fan of the fringes and half-failures of the past, this reimagining of styles hits like a warm liquor burn in August. It’s uncomfortable and soothing all at the same time. Savoy Motel have found a way to raise the dead and make ’em dance. Still not what I’d ever have expected from the core members of this band, and I’m delighted to have my expectations dashed in this case.
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