Les Savy Fav
Let’s Stay Friends
razy insane or insane crazy? For years now Tim Harrington, the lead singer of Les Savy Fav, the Providence-germinated, Brooklyn-habitated four-piece, has been a man apart. While his band mates have dutifully produced dependable art punk petroleum (good for thousands of miles of rave ups and come downs!), he and his vocals have been the manic centerpiece anchoring their cultish live shows.
When this writer had the good fortune of catching LSF’s performance at Pitchfork’s Intonation festival during the summer of 2005, Harrington was a man possessed. Switching costumes: yellow suspenders to high waders to shirtless to ladybug antenna. Front man mood swings: tossing lollipops to screeching out “The Sweat Descends” from their singles comp Inches to reaching out to kiss the front row.
No good trying to dart around the obvious: their performance on wax just couldn’t touch their live act’s straitjacketed glee. Two pre-millennial LP’s had come and gone, 2001’s Go Forth, released on bassist Syd Butler’s Frenchkiss records, got plenty of respect for its machete heart and post-grad brains (listen underneath Harrington’s howls and you’ll hear of Carthage and Petri dishes), but still could take a hammer to the show-first, recording-second rep.
Ask, and you shall receive. Harrington finally lets us all the way in on Let’s Stay Friends the band’s latest, battling what he told Billboard was a crippling writers block: “I’d hide away in a spare room and spread out 500 index cards that had fragments of lyrical ideas but couldn’t punch anything out.”
Defeat turns to righteous fury to oscillations between rage and black bile regret—there are no eddies in this river, there is no eye in this storm. For Friends’s twelve songs the lyric emotions are redlined, needle quivering, and wonderfully exhausting. Album opening “Post & Pans” crashes with bleary-eyed (self-deprecating?) pathos: “There was a band, called the pots and pan / They built this noise, people couldn’t stand / And when they toured across the land, people said ‘No! No! No!’”
Then, like a tab of the in vogue pharmaceutical, “The Equestrian” calms itself down with drummer Harrison Hayes’s bloody knuckles and Harrington’s wide-eyed mantras: “Easy now! Easy now! Easy now!”
It’s the pull of emotions and brains that twist the center of Friends: “If you fear the end is near / Please check your front hemisphere.” Harrington is at war with himself, imitating animals in confusion (“What Would Wolves Do?”) and sequestering his soul even during the apparent good times: “draw up the drawbridge, drop down the blinds, everyone inside getting high tonight” (“Raging in the Plague Age”). It’s all vintage Harrington, twisting like scarecrow in the psychic wind, stomping outside and raging around the block before retreating back indoors.
But he’s not as alone as he thinks. The silent partners in LSF, Butler, Haynes, and guitarist Seth Jabour, all turn in their best work, making Friends the band’s most propulsive and moving offering yet. Butler tears at the undertow of “Kiss Kiss Is Getting Old,” Haynes turns his drums into the album’s engine room and there are even moments where Harrington isn’t the showstopper—Jarbour’s copper filament-thin guitar trail on “Patty Lee” may just be the best feature on the whole damn disc.
Harrington should take heart. We all go a little mad sometimes, the luckiest of us just have the people to pull us through.