Jehnny Beth: To Love Is to Live review – solo Savage defiant and intimate

(Caroline Records)
Moving between vulnerability and aggression, Beth’s album contains multitudes, from sex to cinematic washes, ballads to thrash, released with a collection of erotic stories

Jehnny Beth is best known as the frontwoman of Savages: the always monochromatic, post-punk four-piece whose dissonant debut album was nominated for the Mercury prize back in 2013. Beth herself grew up in the French countryside – her real name is Camille Berthomier – but moved to London in her 20s to pursue music. With Savages, who released their last record in 2016, she was electrifying – though she recently told the Guardian that the band eventually became a “prison for creativity”. The more successful they became, the more she felt caged. Now, with her debut solo album To Love Is to Live, she makes herself defiantly uncategorisable. 

Jehnny Beth: To Love Is to Live album art work.
Jehnny Beth: To Love Is to Live album art work. Photograph: PR

To Love... opens with a cavernous, cinematic intro, announcing “I am naked all the time,” first in a pitch-shifted growl, and later, in Beth’s own fragile, naked vocal. She sets the stage for a restless album that thrives on contrast: from delicate piano ballads to thrashing metal. The record arrives simultaneously with a collection of erotic short stories – Crimes Against Love Manifesto (C.A.L.M.) – and can be equally sensual, as with Flower, a hushed ballad dedicated to an LA pole dancer, and We Will Sin Together, where lyrics about legs parting are couched in hazy, undulating synths. But Beth hasn’t lost the aggression of her Savages persona, either: there’s the glitchy fury of How Could You (featuring Joe Talbot of Idles) and the brittle, Peaky Blinders-soundtracking I’m the Man (incidentally, Cillian Murphy also reads Beth’s poetry on a different track). Beth’s ability to glide between vulnerability and intimidation is unnerving, and adds more shades of grey to a performer who’s previously operated in black and white.


Aimee Cliff

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Jehnny Beth: To Love Is to Live review – intense and provocative
The Savages frontwoman goes solo with an accompanying erotic short story collection

Kitty Empire

14, Jun, 2020 @8:00 AM

Article image
Jehnny Beth of Savages: 'Sex is a wonderful way to test yourself'
The confrontational singer explores her fears and self-doubt on a solo album and in a collection of erotic fiction. She talks about learning to show her caring side – and finding cannibalism ‘horny’

Laura Snapes

14, Feb, 2020 @6:00 AM

Article image
Bobby Gillespie and Jehnny Beth: Utopian Ashes review – a welcome surprise
The Primal Scream frontman trades brashness for contemplation in this rewarding collaboration with the former Savages singer

Phil Mongredien

27, Jun, 2021 @12:00 PM

Article image
Savages – review

Savages are at their best when they play fast, but they would be better if they paused for thought, writes Michael Hann

Michael Hann

22, Feb, 2013 @5:40 PM

Article image
Savages/Palma Violets – review
An 'all-girl Joy Division' make a powerful, if rather dour, impression on this post-punk double bill

Kate Mossman

28, Jul, 2012 @11:01 PM

Article image
Savages: Silence Yourself – review

The London four-piece's stark, arresting debut album harks back to the monochrome 80s, writes Kitty Empire

Kitty Empire

04, May, 2013 @11:04 PM

Article image
Savages: Adore Life review – the looser, lighter sound of a band moving forward
Savages sound a little less icy and a little less serious on their second album – there are even a few jokes this time

Alexis Petridis

14, Jan, 2016 @3:30 PM

Article image
End of the Road review – intimate, adventurous fest steals the summer
In lieu of glittery students, the esoteric festival’s lineup does the sparkling – from Vampire Weekend’s afro-indie hits to St Vincent’s visceral synth-rock

Mark Beaumont

03, Sep, 2018 @11:00 AM

Article image
Viagra Boys: Welfare Jazz review – post-punkers are hard to love
Expanding on their pulverising visions of lowlifes and inadequates, Viagra Boys’ second just about avoids caricature

Michael Hann

08, Jan, 2021 @9:00 AM

Article image
Beth Ditto review – a joyous comeback
Pop has been duller without former Gossip singer Beth Ditto’s outspoken politics and powerhouse voice

Bernadette McNulty

16, Apr, 2017 @8:00 AM