The plunging cleavage, panda eyes and platinum wig-plumage that dominate the album’s sleeve/artwork evokes the most glamorous of Lennox’s personas – but she is a screen siren in a short skirt coming away at the seams. On the surface she is the Marilyn Monroe-type with a public face that is knowing, confident and alluring whilst fighting inner vulnerability with reckless, unpredictable abandon. A woman, one suspects, who may be dangerous to know but a hoot to boot. A lady of the night you know will get you into trouble and yet, you can’t help coming back for more. This is the essence of “Savage”, the album that keeps on giving a quarter of a century after its release.
There is an electronic-relentless unease that permeates Savage from start to end and, typical of Eurythmics’ chameleon quality, is a world apart in sound from the album’s predecessor, the rock-out and commercial smash “Revenge”. Savage is bleaker and sparser in comparison but the production is every bit as sharp.
To a casual listener it may be a collection of songs of exiguity that lends itself well to say, club-disco and remixes, as the uptempo tracks (“Heaven”, “Put the Blame on Me”) lay down a scorching beat. At the same time, scrutinised lyrically, it is a concept album exploring the spiraling paranoia, discontent and boredom characterised by domestic humdrummery and the complexities of relationships, as the repetitive lines of “Beethoven (I Love To Listen To)” testify. The realisation of the rut leads to a breakaway, apron strings left on the floor, with the emergence of a world beyond the kitchen as the bored housewife comes out fighting, swapping the slippers for killer heels.
This lashing out is perfectly encapsulated by way of the intoxicated slutty alter-ego, exemplified through the song “I Need a Man”. The fight-back can be heard on “You Have Placed a Chill In My Heart”, as the mascara begins to flow, the mask is stripped away, and “Brand New Day” reveals further reflection married to hope.
Much of my interpretation is based upon not just the lyrical content, but the album as interpreted by director Sophie Muller in the video collection that accompanies the longplayer. Muller, a long-time collaborator of Eurythmics and Lennox as a solo artist (most famously cropping up in similar fashion as part of “Diva”) re-orders the songs from the record into a video album with a strong narrative following the journey described. Lennox – ever the actress – brings the words to life through costume and performance.
Savage, now 25 years old, has arguably aged better than other Eurythmics’ albums thanks to strong production and the resurgence of electro-music by the likes of modern bands (MGMT, La Roux). Against these, Savage continues to holds its own.
I’ve provided but one analysis. The beauty of Savage is in its mystery: it is lyrically ambiguous and only through the video album does one realise its direction. To try and find a point in such an album is as much to miss it. It is an album that refuses to be deciphered and thus secures its enduring legacy.