Issue October 6, 2010

Savages

The Gay Blades
TRIPLE CROWN/ILG

After an opening that hews too closely to The Black Keys, guitarist/singer James Dean Wells, aka Clark Westfield, and drummer Quinn English, aka Puppy Mills, find their voice in the overabundance of guitar-drum duos in “Try to Understand.” On the surface, the song is sonically joyous, thanks to horns from World Inferno Friendship Society. Lyrically it’s a brutal and forlorn recollection, as James explores the loss of his 19-year-old brother, Ian Savage Wells, whose funeral James wasn’t able to attend because the band was on tour and couldn’t afford to fly home. Ian’s death lingers as a recurring theme, if not always in the lyrics, then in the way his elder brother’s sarcasm, so evident in past material, has been mellowed by one of life’s tragic earthquakes.