Release Date: Jun 2, 2015
Record label: Virgin EMI
Mixing Royal Blood’s minimalist blues-punk dynamics with Sleaford Mods’ acerbic, state-of-the-nation lyrics, Tunbridge Wells guitar/drums duo Slaves have been widely tipped to be one of 2015’s breakthrough acts. Their debut just about lives up to the hype. Laurie Vincent’s heavy but simple guitar riffs underpin the 13 songs here, and there’s plenty of vibrant imagery to enjoy (Sockets concerns an encounter with a woman so attractive “you could hear your eyes rolling round in their sockets”).
Their borstal-boy beats and primitive style might lead you to believe Slaves are angry, but they’re not, they’re just disappointed. Disappointed with complacent, grumpy Londoners, disappointed with apathetic twenty-somethings for not getting off their arses and taking a stand before they’re too institutionalised to care, and disappointed in the lack of personality in pop. Singing drummer Isaac Holman and guitarist Laurie Vincent are so larger-than-life they’re practically cartoon characters.
Thirty seconds into their first album, Slaves offer a promise. ”The feeling is mutualYou don’t like what we doBecause we say what we thinkAnd that shocks and frightens you” The gauntlet is down. In the grand tradition of punk delinquency, Slaves cast themselves as rabble-rousers, disrupters of the status quo. But thus far in 'The Hunter', all they’ve managed is fuzzy logic: scientists don’t "invert the facts" about global warming, that’s what politicians do.
Over the past three years, Slaves have done their best to cause a ruckus. On stage, their live show has created both intrigue and fascination while their recent rise to BBC Radio 1 A-listers has left some onlookers mystified. Yet, with a hell of a lot of elbow grease, their brand of bratty, in-your-face punk rock has won them over quite a fan base; and their debut full-length is set to earn them even more.
Slaves are extraordinary fun live: a duo with a singing stand-up drummer and a guitarist prone to playing while being passed across the heads of the audience, and blessed with the underrated gift of being amusing between songs. In those circumstances, brief blasts of noise, a couple of chords and a shouted chorus are all you need to keep up the momentum. On record, however, you need rather more.
Off the back of their incendiary live shows, Slaves have made quite a reputation for themselves and are now being touted as the next Royal Blood and in some quarters, as a sign that punk is on the rise once again. On a superficial level, it’s easy to see why Slaves have made such an impact and why Virgin EMI was so keen to pick them up. Who doesn’t want to hear a little vim and vigour? What’s been lacking recently is some of the old fighting spirit! A bit of bile! In place of shitty cover versions sung for the approval of a middle aged man responsible for Mr Blobby, what’s required is a youthful eye cast over current events and an album filled with acerbic observations coupled with agitated guitar noise! Initially Are You Satisfied? does impress.