In my early days of music collecting, Eurythmics was one band I filed under "must-own" — if the duo released an album, I made sure to get it. My enthusiasm for them, however, petered out before the release of We Too Are One in 1989. (Nor did I manage to get the 1984 soundtrack. In the Garden hadn’t been released in the States at that time.)
In reality, Eurythmics was a far better singles band than an album band. Of the vinyl albums I purchased in my youth, only two made the leap to CD — Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) and more recently, Savage.
Savage holds a strange position in the band’s discographic history. They went back to using synthesizers after having made a big effort to ditch them two albums earlier, nor did they tour in support of the album. The singles don’t have the chart-ready catchiness of their previous hits.
Despite the detour back to synthesizers, Savage was no regression. The maturity Eurythmics achieved on Be Yourself Tonight powers the writing on Savage. These are not maudlin brain exercises with sine and triangle waves. (See Touch.)
Rather, most of the experimentation falls on singer Annie Lennox, who employs speech and recitation more so on this album than any other. What makes "Beethoven (I Love to Listen to)" so fascinating is the fact she really doesn’t sing it all — she acts it.
While a live aspect has always informed Eurythmics’ use of synthesizers, Savage manages to strike a balance between human and machine. Dave Stewart’s guitar work on "I Need a Man" and "Put the Blame on Me" are driving forces rather than decoration.
Thematically, the songs leaned toward the darker end of the love song spectrum. "Do You Want to Break Up?", "Shame" and "You Have Placed a Chill in My Heart" pretty much say it all. "I Need You" sounds like a promising enough title before Annie Lennox clarifies: "I need someone to listen to the ecstacy I’m faking / I need you, you, you."
Most important, Savage holds together as an album. Eurythmics produced prolifically during the ’80s, pretty much releasing an album every year. With that much output, not all of it managed to stick. (See Revenge.)
Savage stands out not only in the chronology of Eurythmics but in their oeuvre.