Les Savy Fav
irst of all, I have a bad habit. Several, actually, but let’s start simple: I have a tendency to use terms in conversations that I don’t fully comprehend the meaning of. Take ‘high concept’, for example. I think I first heard it in an article about the movie producer Don Simpson, supposedly the foremost exponent of the ‘high concept movie’; yet it seems easier to define what isn’t high concept than the reverse (a bit like emo?). My only excuse is that no-one else really seems to be able to do any better: in Robert Kosberg's "The Bottom Line of High Concept" chapter in his book, How To Sell Your Idea to Hollywood, he credits the idea to Barry Diller and Michael Eisner: apparently "Diller and Eisner had to devise a way to grab attention in a TV Guide listing with just one or two lines... that one sentence had to convey just how exciting, sexy, provocative, and entertaining the movie was going to be for them to watch." Great. So why, if it’s just a way to sex-up a boring movie and can thus be theoretically applied to any film, do we have the term ‘high-concept movie’? Am I missing something? Does this, in the grand scheme of things, matter?
Well, it matters, man, because I really, really want to call Les Savy Fav’s collection of singles Inches ‘high concept’. Here’s the story: way way back in the mists of time (1996), before the band had even released any product, they decided to embark upon an epic undertaking that would see them release nine different singles, each on a different label. Bold, brash, and not a little beautiful: finally, in 2004, their quest is over, and for those of us too lazy to track each release down we have Inches, an 18 song collection comprising all nine singles. So was their journey really necessary?
Any collection that spans such a long time in a band’s development is likely to suffer from varying quality across style and song-writing. Inches succeeds, and then some, because the record simply doesn’t sound like it’s been collated together over a nine year period. Period. Trust me, at the end of this disc of forking guitars and head-bopping rhythms your ears should be bleeding, your hips shaking, and your fingers flicking through the pages of your nearest dictionary trying to work out what the hell vocalist Tim Harrington is growling about. That’s not to say that there’s no sense of evolution on display: it’s just that even the oldest track (“Rodeo”, released in 1997 on Sub Pop) sounds fully realized—just a little fuzzier than the rest. Beginning with 2004’s “Meet Me in the Dollar Bin” on Monitor (whose first minute of burbling synths and sparse percussion led me to expect a dose of !!!-like skullduggery), the disc proceeds backwards to “Rodeo”, taking in wonderful Spoon-esque new wave (“We’ll Make A Lover of You”), spooky Vini Reilly guitar lines (“Hello Halo, Goodbye Glands”) and extremely strange performance art (“Reformat (Live)”) along the way. While the band are essentially doing nothing new here (“a guitar band from around New York that plays funky, danceable music? Really?”) they call upon a quite different set of influences than many of their contemporaries—the guitar-playing of Seth Jabour often conjures forth the delay-pedal finery of none other than The Edge, while the melodic coda of “Fading Vibes” sounds like New Order circa Lowlife, complete with Hooky-like bass lines from Syd Butler. Plus it’s catchy as hell. Buy, or be damned.
Reviewed by: Dave McGonigle
Reviewed on: 2004-09-01