GenX Nostalgia Candy
What does the GenX experience sound like? What does the GenX experience feel like? When people are actually thinking about GenX these days (which doesn’t seem to be often if you read the news), clichés abound about flannel shirts, the grunge explosion out of Seattle, the death of Kurt Cobain and on and on. One image that does come to mind is a smoky, dingy, concrete-floored basement rock club where the patrons are wearing flannel, not particularly well kept, maybe even stink a bit and slosh Pabst Blue Ribbon on the floor while pseudo-dancing to whatever noise machine is on stage. Think scenes from films like Reality Bites and Single or one particular scene in Before Sunrise. Yes, sometimes the clichés do fit. The rock lounges may not be so filled with smoke, and perhaps they are a bit less dingy, but Barrence Whitfield and the Savages keep the image alive with their latest release, Under the Savage Sky on Bloodshot Records.
This band was built for those clubs. Chugging along since their debut record in 1984 when they were just getting started in Boston, Whitfield and the Savages have had something of a resurgence since 2010, but their sound remains largely untouched. The new record features 12 short, nasty dirty tracks, opening with a bass heavy rocker called “Willow” that seems to speak largely about losing control, a fitting kickoff for the rest of the album.
This is followed by the power chord heavy “I’m a Full Grown Man,” a song that speaks for itself. Whitfield lends his soulful voice to the proceedings backed by some surfer rock style guitar licks, all held up by the thump of the bass and drums. There are forays into authentic rockabilly with “Rock and Roll Baby,” and into what could be called slower songs as in the plodding but no less heavy “Angry Hands.” Punk and R&B unite for a record that’s a wind of relief to those in a certain age bracket.
There is no doubt that the hope with this album (as with any album one would like to think) is to capture the imagination of a new generation of music lovers while holding on to the already converted. This album harkens back to a contextually simpler time when it was okay to fly in the face of the status quo and embrace some anger and spit. Barrence Whitfield and the Savages are gleefully continuing that aesthetic, welcoming the listener into the warm, flawed and human embrace of the dingy, smoky, rock clubs GenX remembers oh so well.