Savoy Motel - S/T

Savoy Motel - S/T

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On first glance, it’s easy to peg Savoy Motel as ’70s revivalists. Their logo is rendered in Shotgun font like the title card on some Saturday morning kids’ show; the Lichtenstein-style pop-art graphic of their debut album resembles a bargain-bin K-Tel comp of disco hits. And in their videos, the Nashville quartet come off as a cross between the Partridge family and Manson family, all vintage thrift-store duds and hypnotic blank stares. But on this first full-length, Savoy Motel aren’t so much recreating a moment from 40 years ago as heralding the 20-year nostalgia cycle for 20-year nostalgia cycles. They render the sounds of the ’70s using the ’90s pastiche techniques of Beck, Ween, and Royal Trux, compacting glam-rock, southern boogie, and Stax sax stabs into 8-bit videogame proportions.

Savoy Motel is something of a hybrid Tennessee garage-rock supergroup: bassist/vocalist Jeffrey Novak and drummer Jessica McFarland played together in raucous power-pop outfit Cheap Time; guitarists Dillon Watson and Mimi Galbierz slathered the fuzz on thick in Heavy Cream. But that in-the-red ethos is barely perceptible here—the wild abandon of their previous groups has been harnessed into vacuum-sealed pawn-shop pop is capable of inciting spontaneous line-dancing. The fetching first song on their debut doubles as Savoy Motel’s mission-statement slogan. With its staccato faux-brass jabs and cheerfully chintzy psych-funk groove, “Souvenir Shop Rock” does to ’70s pop signifiers what a snowglobe does to a city skyline: it both miniaturizes and exaggerates its features, closing itself off from the real world to create its own make-believe wonderland.

But in Savoy Motel’s case, the music’s hermetic dimensions amplify the bustling activity within them: the call-and-response interplay between singer Novak’s louche delivery and Galbierz and McFarland’s stoner-soul harmonies; the squelching sci-fi synths and drum-machine tics; and the squealing leads of Watson, a disciple from the Neil Hagerty school of avant-shredding. And while they shamelessly draw from the past, they shrewdly rearrange their source elements into curious combinations: “Doctor Cook” swaps out Marc Bolan’s top hat for a Stetson; “Mindless Blues” is Can’s “Halleluwah” if Damo Suzuki got elbowed out by ESG.


A1 Souvenir Shop Rock
A2 Western Version Boogie
A3 Sorry People
A4 Doctor Cook
A5 Everyone Wants To Win
B1 Mindless Blues
B2 International Language
B3 Hot One