Back in 1995, Mike Watt told us, "The kids of today should defend themselves against the '70s." Watt was (and is) old enough to speak from first-hand experience, but did we (or they) listen? It seems the decade of bad clothing and iffy musical decisions still refuses to die as a cultural reference point, and the debut album from Nashville indie rockers Savoy Motel is a case in point. Featuring two former members of Cheap Time (bassist, vocalist, keyboard man, and songwriter Jeffrey Novak and drummer and vocalist Jessica McFarland) and two alumni from Heavy Cream (guitarist and vocalist Mimi Galbierz and lead guitarist Dillon Watson), Savoy Motel is stylistically hip deep in the '70s, so much so that their online claim "Savoy Motel are not a post-punk band or a retro glam revival group" can only be read with the deepest sarcasm. With music informed by glam, distaff classic rock, and the soul elements David Bowie borrowed for Young Americans, Savoy Motel generate a distinctly period-inspired sound, especially when McFarland steps away from the drum kit and lets her vintage Maestro Rhythm King drum machine do the work. Musically, Savoy Motel have worked out a formula from their various influences and it's generally effective, as the group grooves out and Watson layers his solos over the top. On numbers like "Hot One" and "Souvenir Shop Rock," Savoy Motel deliver material that's clearly drawn from past sounds but still has something resembling its own personality, and their sense of hooks helps them get over. But McFarland and Galbierz are not especially good vocalists, lacking in both force and personality, and while Novak has more of both, his instrument is remarkably inconsistent, and only his Marc Bolan imitation consistently works for the band. And "International Language" unfortunately proves this is one band that should not try to write or play songs over nine minutes. Despite the talent on board and the high-concept thinking that went into it, there's a dry, brittle quality to Savoy Motel that saps this material of its strength, and this band has only so many tricks in its pocket to begin with. Hopefully, Savoy Motel will broaden their sound and their sense of history for the second album; as it is, this one reminds us why so many folks were so eager for 1980 to show up.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming