Harry Casey-Woodward, hobbyist reviewer and noise lover, reviews the new album by Kent punk duo Slaves, Take Control.
Slaves, Take Control, 2016, Virgin/EMI, 4/5
Slaves are something British music has needed for a while. We’ve had plenty of cool noise-making bands over recent years, but none have been as fun or direct as Isaac Holman on drums and Laurie Vincent on strings, both gleefully roaring their sharp, hilarious lyrics on working class problems. Hot on the heels of their official debut last year Are You Satisfied?, Slaves’ second album Take Control came out at the end of this September, sporting a florescent cover painted by the guitarist.
Their previous album was a hard act to follow. Catchy, exhilarating and ballsy, it was surely the Never Mind the Bollocks of 2015. I was a little worried therefore that Slaves would fall into the pattern that ensnares a lot of noisy bands and just spend their careers replicating their first album over and over. Thankfully, while the style of the new album is still very much Slaves, it is a bit of a different creature.
For one thing, there’s more songs. Some admittedly are random skits, but Take Control also has a greater range of styles and thus feels like a bigger project. Are You Satisfied was a compact burst of shout-along joy rides, while Take Control boasts a little more sophistication, musically and lyrically.
That still doesn’t mean it isn’t fun though. Take opening track ‘Spit it Out’. It may not be a cover of Slipknot’s awesome single but it is a contender for best single of the year, mainly because it’s such a perfect punk anthem. Making brilliant use of the quiet/loud song dynamic that made bands like Nirvana sound great, repetitive jabbing guitar builds up to a roaring chorus, where the singer screams the song title over and over. The other lyrics reflect themes Slaves have raged about on several songs, namely getting lads off their arses and doing something with their lives.
Other current topics Slaves attack on Take Control include mundane media (on such rollercoaster tracks as ‘Hypnotised’) and material wealth (see the blistering ‘Rich Man’). Once again Slaves prove themselves masters of the punk rock formula: fast, simple topical bullets of humorous anger. However, there is more of the sophisticated side that peeked through the energetic blast of Are You Satisfied.
Half of the tracks are as post-punk as Public Image. Songs like ‘Lies’ sound like catchy but creepy pop hits, with slow, menacing riffs. Even the vocal mix sounds more post-punk. While Isaac was shouting in your face before, now his charismatic voice sounds like it was recorded in an empty concrete room, giving it a spooky echo while losing none of its edge.
Beastie Boy Mike D of all people even supplies rap on the thundering ‘Consume or be Consumed’. Joined by Baxter Dury, Slaves also reveal a sensitive side on the tender ‘Steer Clear’, where the singer begs someone he cares about not to go drink driving after an argument. Once again, Slaves have produced a winning combination of subtlety and savage bluntness while upping their game.