Despite ferociously gigantic and typically half-naked frontman Tim Harrington’s best intentions, Les Savy Fav is missing some key ingredients — primarily that one great album to stand up as an equal to the band’s tremendous live show, something that proves the band members are more than high-energy, booze-infused spectacles. Of course, the joke’s on us (shame!), because Les Savy Fav recorded such an album in 1997; we just haven’t really been able to get our grubby little hands on it until now.
In its recorded career, Les Savy Fav’s shinning moment has by far been 2004’s Inches, a long-planned compilation of non-album singles spanning eight years and nine different labels. The album, particularly for those listeners that never had the pleasure of seeing Harrington pour a beer down his pants, went above and beyond a blanket statement about Les Savy Fav’s agit-rocking intentions but occasionally (read: about every third song) slipped into the obvious filler that accompanies a project of this nature. Now widely available through a French Kiss reissue, Les Savy Fav’s debut, 3/5 (originally released on Self-Starter Foundation), delivers the swift kick in the ass that Inches, despite its scattered gems, failed to plant firmly and with enough force. This album plays solid through all ten tracks. (The reissue, unfortunately, doesn’t include any bonus material.)
Leading the charge is, of course, Harrington, whose tender-by-way-of-obnoxious vocal howls, squeals, strains and French-language banter create the icing above the rough-edged ball of punk energy. But far outreaching the rest of the band’s catalog is guitarist Seth Jabber and now-departed ax-man Gibb Slife. They create a brilliantly abrasive wall of shredded chords for each track that, even when it’s restrained and subdued, still produces a massive shot of trebly adrenaline, almost to the point where the intensity of the group’s rhythm section becomes relatively docile aside from snare hits and cymbal crashes.
It might be too fan-boy-ish to assume that the strength of tracks such as “Scout’s Honor” and “Je T’Aime” can be attributed to the studio handiwork of a pre-DFA James Murphy, who along with Nicholas Vernes recorded these tracks at the Rare Book Room. At no point does it appear as if Murphy has as much of a hand culling this talent on the record as he does with his current lineup of hipper-than-thou dance artists because, when it comes down to it, 3/5 screams “lo-fi” with such blood-curdling exuberance that it reaches a point of compensation. (In a sense, volume triumphs over sound quality.) But isn’t that the way we want our Les Savy Fav? Loose, sloppy and, most important, loud.