Savoy Motel, “Savoy Motel”

The Nashville quartet choogle with the best of ’em.
Savoy Motel, “Savoy Motel”

The Nashville quartet choogle with the best of ’em.

Words: Jon Pruett

October 20, 2016

Savoy Motelsavoy_motel-2016-savoy_motel
Savoy Motel

Savoy Motel is the current rock and roll outlet for a quartet of Nashvillains who must have been weaned off the teat by the Nuggets box and the first Ramones and Buzzcocks records. Singer Jeffrey Novak was previously the impetus behind Cheap Time, those razor-sharp blasters of sneering and preening guitar fuzz who put out several albums that are ideal for listening to with a group of wayward teens. Jessica McFarland, Mimi Galbierz, and Dillon Watson all came from Heavy Cream—a powerhouse of a band whose best songs sound like someone playing “Do You Wanna Dance?” while on fire (this is a compliment).

Savoy Motel goes further by increasing the dosage of that most dangerous of musical elixirs—the funk. But this is not your on-the-one funk as practiced by The J.B.’s (past) and Dap-Kings (present); what we’re talking about here is the dirt- and grease-sodden rhythms of chooglers like James Gang, whose “Funk #49” (and Funk #48) epitomize the sound. Add in some of the oily sonics emanating from Virgin Records–era Royal Trux and you have an idea of the poles Savoy Motel radiate between.

“Souvenir Shop Rock” tackles both worlds and is the album’s opening statement. The track’s lack of polish and roughly hewn guitar tone is balanced by the combination of Novak and McFarland’s sweetened singing voices. The vocal approach switches to nicely detached call and response on “Sorry People,” which also adds some synth bleat to the occasion, making it feel like you’re at a party where everyone is way more messed up than you are. Tracks like “Western Version Boogie” and “Mindless Blues” show off loose chord changes and flagrantly ripping guitar solos set against heady and groovy drones, the vocals lines recited like chapbook poetry.

Near the end of the record, the band sit in a locked Teutonic pattern for nearly ten minutes on “International Language” and get weird in a way that feels like they’re having a blast and not just showing off their influences—which is kind of the theme here. Savoy Motel is certainly revivalism of a wild type of rock and roll, but they seek more to reinvent rather than recreate.