He uses the word "passionate" a lot, and it's clear that feeling is the key element in his art.
Without taking away from the rest of the group, it's the cognitive dissonance Harrington creates with his stage presence and lyrics that make Les Savy Fav so powerful. Let's Stay Friends opens with a track about an only partially fictional band called the Pots and Pans, "who made this noise that people couldn't stand." Despite their audience's protests, the unit sticks it out, realizing on some level that they know what's good for the listeners.
Harrington doesn't particularly care what you expect, yet he's not simply adopting a world-weary pose. Instead he's exhorting you to want more out of music and out of existence. Nowhere is this idea more apparent than in the album's final track, "The Lowest Bidder": "We've been bought and we've been sold / They try but they can't keep hold / We burn, but we don't turn to coal / We're hills all filled with gas and gold / Take the trigger from the lowest bidder / Take the bargain back again." Don't settle for less.
Listening to Let's Stay Friends reminds me that there's more to life than the quotidian world of work meetings, parking tickets, and paying the rent. "Music is the food of love, but reality is waiting for the bus" is a Subhumans lyric I can never seem to forget. For Harrington, reality is passion and waiting for the bus. "An area of interest for me lyrically," he explains, "is to be able to address whatever the harshest and most negative elements are in life and society and defy that, not with a pie-eyed optimism, but with a really cold-hearted optimism.
Don't expect the world to change. Change yourself. Change your perception of it."
LES SAVY FAV
With the Dodos
Sun/27, 8 p.m., $18
Great American Music Hall
859 O'Farrell, SF
(415) 885-0750, www.gamh.com