“We’ve no shame and we’ve no pride and we’ve got nothing left to hide, ‘cause we’ve got nothing left inside,” snarls Tim Harrington on the bridge of Root for Ruin’s superb opening track “Appetites.” Like a mission statement for the downtrodden-yet-bold underbelly of society this passage emphatically announces the band’s arrival and sets out their intentions for this album; to present themselves honestly: it’s disgusting, seedy and desperate, yet perversely heroic.
Root for Ruin finds Les Savy Fav ditching any attempts at branching out; gone are the more accessible numbers such as “Patty Lee” and any additional instrumentation that was hinted at on their last release has also been vanquished. Instead they’ve gone for the balls with one of the finest straight-up rock records you’re likely to hear this year. The double-pronged guitar attack is as potent as ever, with each song possessing a thunderous guitar onslaught as well more cavernous, atmospheric guitar on top. This sound may bear resemblances to some pop-punk bands but they eschew most of the labels that are generally associated with that genre by being brash, self-confident and committed throughout.
Harrington himself makes no apologies for his band’s straightforward musical approach, complementing the ruckus with the growling of his putridly and simplistically magnificent lyrics. “Time and purpose I defy you, all my life you know I’ve tried to,” he triumphantly pronounces on “Excess Energies” and he’s not lying; any song on this album can be held up as an example of Les Savy Fav’s defiance towards life. It seems with this album the band are trying to break free from whatever has been restraining them and doing it in the messiest way possible; whether it’s waltzing to the bottom of a barrel or having “friends with benefits.” If the words are coming from experience or are fictional it doesn’t matter; they’re delivered with such conviction and backed up by such imperious rock that you either go with it or you’ll be swept away in a barrage of guts and sweat.
Even when Les Savy Fav have their moments of tenderness such as when Harrington intones “love won’t you stay a while and stoke the embers of my soul?” on the Pavement-aping “Dear Crutches” he immediately follows it up with “you can rot in your mind and you can rot in your teeth, you can rot in your life but you’re not rottening me,“ returning to the brutal bluntness on display throughout the album. It’s a breath of fresh air to hear a band that doesn’t take itself too seriously, doesn’t try to be too smart and just delivers a scathing white knuckle ride that’s honest and hugely entertaining. Les Savy Fav have proven here that come what may in life we’ll see them on the other side unscathed, smiling and ready for more.