There really should be a rulebook for Treble’s Album of the Week. It’s not completely sacred, as evident in EPs and reissues being previous choices, but those were mere technicalities that no one else would have picked up on. So, when it came time to decide what to do with Les Savy Fav’s Inches, I was faced witha dilemma. Does a singles collection really count as an album, or am I cheating? In this case, I’ll go out on a limb and say it totally counts.
Inches was conceived by these smart-assed Brooklynites well before they recorded any proper albums. Starting with “Blackouts on Thursday”/”Rodeo,” the band conceived a clever and progressive idea to release a regular series of seven-inches, each one on a different label, all with corresponding cover art. Though it took seven years to complete, the end result is a glorious work of art, and (depending on how you look at it) the band’s best album.
Tracked from newest to oldest, Inches shows a reverse evolution of the band’s wiry post-punk sound. Some of the more recently recorded songs are their best, displaying more complex song structures, wittier lyrics and a more ambitious approach. The first ten songs are unstoppable, whether it’s the keyboard bleeps of “Meet Me in the Dollar Bin,” the roots-rock riffs of “Fading Vibes,” the eerie melodies of “Hello Halo, Goodbye Glands” or the transformation from bouncy, screwball ditty to post-punk raveup on “Yawn, Yawn, Yawn.” They’re all badass.
Earlier material, like the aforementioned “Blackouts” and “Rodeo,” as well as “Bringing Us Down” and “Our Coastal Hymn” are placed at the end of the album, ending the celebration with four blasts of raucous punk. Though not as evolved as the first half, per se, they’re nothing to be fucked with.
The most impressive A-side/B-side combo, and best two tracks overall, are the amazing “The Sweat Descends” and “Knowing How the World Works.” Here, singer Tim Harrington and guitarist Seth Jabour give it their all. In the former, Jabour approximates a ballsier Edge, all digital delay and depravity until Harrington meets a crash of bass and distortion with his cry of “wake me up when we get to heaven!” The latter, however, is a sassy dancepunk song, and infectious as Les Savy Fav’s singles come. Though catchy and seemingly under control, the whole song starts to fall apart around the four-minute mark, each sound getting lost in utter chaos. Fantastic.
Some material on Inches is forgettable, like the fuzzy demo of “Reprobate’s Resume” and near-inaudible live recording of “Reformat,” but with so much music on this collection, a few bad eggs don’t ruin the bunch. The inclusion of “Reformat (Dramatic Reading)” makes a good break, mid-album, though it is incredibly bizarre and may have you laughing out of discomfort.
It’s no great stretch to call Inches a concept album of sorts, though certainly an unconventional one. It is, however, Les Savy Fav’s most impressive work to date. As Harrington puts it plainly in “Meet Me in the Dollar Bin,” “We got old, but we got good.”
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Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.