Friends with benefits

Venerable post-punkers Les Savy Fav prove they’re reunited, and it feels so good.

Haily Gostas

It’s been six years, Les Savy Fav. Six years! You never wrote. You never called. You all moved onward – and allegedly apart – after the release of 2001’s jolty dance-punk-infected “Go Forth.” Your spectacular, Slip ‘N Slide-accessorized live shows dwindled to an infrequent status. Where were you, exactly, and what were you doing? Probably guzzling Cristal on a yacht in the Mediterranean with former Fugazi members. And now you want us to stay friends? How presumptuous! How paltry!

Turns out Les Savy Fav really means it, though. They want to get reacquainted with even the most skeptical of hearts, those who were left high, dry and embittered by a pause in their musical pleasure. So as not to waste your time by apathetically cashing in on or attempting a superficial revamping of past achievements, “Let’s Stay Friends” sounds as though vocalist/lyricist Tim Harrington, guitarist Seth Jabour, bassist Syd Butler and drummer Harrison Haynes have spent their time off wisely, mulling things over and making things work. They want to become a better band for you with what they’ve already got going.

On album opener “Pots and Pans,” Harrington, with his always slightly unhinged bark, divulges the break-up process often necessary to begin anew: “Let’s tear this whole place down and build it up again/This band’s a beating heart and it’s nowhere near its end.” A triumphant beginning, it kicks off an upward assemblage into something beautiful.

Les Savy Fav has maintained an impressively consistent, raw-power discography, and much of “Let’s Stay Friends” familiar intensity fits securely within it. However, there’s a surprising (and successful) exploration of elegance amid the abrupt. For every song like “The Equestian,” a smash-and-thrash number that’s raucous the whole way through, there are sparklingly pretty standouts like “What Would Wolves Do” (which features Metric’s Emily Haines as the ghostly background piano beneath a storm of guitars) and “Patty Lee.”

A chronic shouter under most circumstances, Harrington here proves himself a versatile vocalist capable of quite the croon (on “Wolves,” he’s got enough layered “awoooos” for a whole pack). “Patty Lee” allows him a teasing falsetto on the first verse and a gravelly, aching howl on the second. All the while, he’s met by ultra-tight instrumentation – those fluttering hooks and crashing drums that owe just as much to Les Savy Fav’s unique interpretations as they do to their post-punk forefathers.

As it blissfully tries to gain its bearings, “Let’s Stay Friends” comes up short on a few big gambles. “Comes and Goes” is a tepid duet with the Fiery Furnaces’ Eleanor Friedberger, one that boasts a silly-fun premise (Les Savy Fav unplugging their axes and Ö getting down with acoustic ballads?) but ultimately ends up a bumbled outside-the-box experiment. But take it slow, fellas, and we’ll be just fine.

We’ll be fine because “Let’s Stay Friends” rewards that type of long-term investment. It’s a time-honored record about the relationship maturation that can result from a hiatus, a documented evolution from the sporadic, sweepingly romantic declarations – the flowers and the candy – to a fully-formed committment.