Tim Harrington described his band’s newest album Root For Ruin more colorfully than anyone else could have, remarking that it had “sack out the wazoo.” He later apologized for the mental image, but the sentiment remained. After having fully conquered dance-friendly punk anthems earlier in the decade, and polishing up their pop gems on the crisp, yet still hard rocking Let’s Stay Friends, not to mention taking time off to be husbands and fathers, Les Savy Fav were ready to release one badass mofo of a rock ‘n’ roll album.
Tapping into the raw, visceral energy and smart-assed lyricism that made their second album The Cat and the Cobra such an unstoppable force, Les Savy Fav get back to basics, in a manner of speaking, on Root For Ruin. The band’s fifth album, not counting the awesome singles compilation Inches, Root is an old-fashioned indie rock album, stacked with distorted riffs and Harrington’s verbal antics. Nary a disco beat is to be found here, nor guest vocalist, nor any instrument outside the guitar-bass-drum family (with a handful of notable exceptions). This is Les Savy Fav simplifying, rocking out, and having a great time doing it.
The ragged riff that kicks off propulsive first track “Appetites” is a big and meaty indication of what the listener’s in for. But the song’s defining moment arrives during the chorus, as Harrington howls “We still got our appetites!“, sending the message that, despite their everyday obligations, these veterans still place a high priority on hammering out some fierce rock music. And as fierce rock music goes, Root For Ruin is excellent, particularly the blazing riffs of “Dirty Knails,” a powerful rocker that shows the band at the top of their game more than a dozen years into their career.
Much like its predecessor, and the album before that, etc., Root For Ruin isn’t so much an album about anything, so much as it is a collection of great rock songs that maintain a furious pace and flow seamlessly from beginning to end. That isn’t to say that Harrington doesn’t paint a vivid picture. He describes menacing L.A. skater kids and tanned bimbos on groove-heavy “Sleepless In Silverlake,” goes romantic on the anthemic single “Let’s Get Out of Here” and exorcises an effective haunting on “Poltergeist.” But even when he’s just shit-talking about “Lips ‘n’ Stuff,” he’s still giving a mighty vocal performance of which few other indie rock vocalists are capable.
While Root For Ruin doesn’t hit as many monumental highs as Les Savy Fav’s three preceding albums, it’s a consistent and highly satisfying album. More than anything, it’s reassurance that when these Brooklyn rabble-rousers stick to a simple idea and plow through some abrasive rock anthems just like the old days, they leave most other bands in the dust.
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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.