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Album Review

The culmination of a project eight years in the making, Les Savy Fav's Inches gathers nine singles — 18 tracks in all — that the band began recording in 1996 and then released through nine different labels (including Sub Pop, Monitor, and Suicide Squeeze). Inches presents these singles in reverse chronological order, a clever and somewhat daring move; as the album plays, the band's sound unravels from the sleek, danceable art-punk of songs like "Meet Me in the Dollar Bin" to the rougher sounds of "Bringing Us Down" and "Reprobates Resume." But while "Hold Onto Your Genre" and "Hello Halo, Goodbye Glands" are more refined than what follows them on Inches, that doesn't mean that the earliest songs on the collection are rudimentary. "Rodeo" and the epic "Our Coastal Hymn" display the taut rhythms, sharp guitars, and equally sharp lyrics that are the foundation of Les Savy Fav's sound; in fact, the band has been riffing on this angular, danceable, post-punk-influenced sound for so long that it's a wonder it's taken so long for so many other bands to catch up with them. Meanwhile, "Reformat [Dramatic Reading]," a short play about a doomed submarine and the men on board, and the subsequent live performance of "Reformat" exemplify the artiness that is reflected in every aspect of the band. Interestingly, more than half of Inches was recorded in 2003 and 2002, making the first half of the album more of a piece than its second half. Indeed, songs like "We'll Make a Lover Out of You," "Knowing How the World Works," and "The Sweat Descends" have a nearly perfect blend of angularity and accessibility, and help make Inches just as consistent, if not more so, than the band's proper releases. Inches is an ambitious concept, but the band's success with it is another example of Les Savy Fav's mix of intellect and volatility.

The first pressing of Inches also comes with a DVD that includes features that range from nice but not essential (30 photos of the band, a DVD audio version of the album) to more interesting bonuses like track-by-track commentary by the band and their friends and accomplices (including producer Chris Zane and Chunklet magazine publisher Henry H. Owings as well as multi-talented performers David Cross and Fred Armisen), videos, and live performances. The commentaries alternate between informative, silly, and downright strange, but they do make the case for more bands giving their music a similar treatment. Likewise, the videos run the gamut from silly (the dancing cowboy in "Rodeo," the amorous sock puppets in "We'll Make a Lover of You") to elevated (the stark animated/photo-collage video for "Reformat [Dramatic Reading]," the scientific/sociological imagery in "Hello Halo, Goodbye Glands"). And the live performances of "Disco Drive," "Knowing How the World Works," and "Who Rocks the Party?" follow a similar devolution to Inches itself, with singer Tim Harrington getting covered with paint, removing half his clothes, diving into the audience, and, finally, serenading a bunny. With or without the bonus DVD, Inches is a comprehensive look at Les Savy Fav.


Formed: 1995 in Providence, RI

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Playing sharp but engaging post-hardcore with complex melodic lines, edgy guitar figures, and plenty of eccentric wit (their name, for instance, sounds French, but doesn't mean anything), Les Savy Fav were formed in 1995 by five friends attending the Rhode Island School of Design. Vocalist Tim Harrington, guitarists Seth Thom Jabour and Gibb Slife, bassist Syd Butler, and drummer Patrick Mahoney began making music together during downtime from their studies, and they spent two years playing clubs...
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