Album Review: Slaves – Take Control

By on Tuesday, 27th September 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Slaves Take Control album cover“What are you going to do about it?” That, my friends, is Isaac Holman’s rallying cry in Slaves’ latest single ‘Spit It Out’. On the surface, dripping with barely veiled contempt, it sounds like a lad’s standard response to a mate’s whinging about the problems in his life. In these trying times of a declining world economy and the lack of upward mobility available to youth, this kind of whinging is common and depending who you talk to, increasingly justified. The interesting part about this song is it’s not just railing on, being loud and obnoxious just to be loud and obnoxious. Holman continues, “maybe you should put yourself / in someone else’s shoes / try hard not to dwell upon / decisions that you choose”.

Hmm. So maybe Slaves have indulged in a bit of philosophical thought since their 2015 bracing debut ‘Are You Satisfied?’, eh? One wonders if being nominated for last year’s Mercury Prize impressed on the Tunbridge Wells duo the need to contemplate beyond unbridled menace. For their energetic, uncompromising manner onstage, the pair – Holman on lead vocals and drums and Laurie Vincent and guitars – have become firm favourites on the live scene. Their always raucous gigs and festival appearances have garnered impassioned overtures from fans and casual observers alike. A common complaint about ‘Are You Satisfied?’ was that it lacked the energy of their live shows. So how does ‘Take Control’, their new long player out Friday, compare? If you’re judging this album by sheer loudness, it should receive an A+ and then some.

In the recording of ‘Take Control’, they enlisted the help of a punk and hip-hop A-lister and founding member of the Beastie Boys Mike D, who upon hearing ‘Are You Satisfied?’, was excited to work with an act with an ethos all too familiar to him. “I feel right now the world needs an album like this. Something that is more raw, more alive and less polished. I was impressed with the band’s strong point of view. They actually speak their minds about social topics.” Mike D features prominently on ‘Consume or Be Consumed’, a growly number punctuated by shouts – including what sounds like the indignant screams of a man getting his legs amputated, eep! – and rapid-fire, melodic verse. At the most basic level, this song can be interpreted as a reflection of our dog-eat-dog world. These are tough times, but Slaves’ message is best summed by Mike D’s own line of “now get your shit together, brother”.

This is a pair of blokes who are not satisfied with merely laying waste to your ears. You might not like their music. But you have to give them credit for trying to inspire their young fans to feel something. To do something positive. Taking a less confrontational angle, using a new wave robotic drumbeat to great effect, Slaves go off script on ‘Steer Clear’. Holman trades verses with Baxter Dury on the tune with the cautionary phrase, “please don’t kill yourself / behind that steering wheel / I don’t really know who I am / but I need to keep it real”. On the throat and axe-shredding ‘Same Again’, Holman gives it his all in an almost maniacal manner, struggling with the mundaneness of everyday life that appears to be stifling him. But in Slaves’ usual way of sticking it to the man with their thundering sound, he insists with angrily yelled words “I’ll get the next one!” This is a man who won’t be licked as long as he’s got blood pumping through his veins. It closes out the album on an inspiring note. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised.

Still, Slaves are never in danger of taking themselves too seriously, and that’s fine by this editor. Some days, you just need an album you can blow off some steam to and have a laugh with after a trying day. ‘Angelica’, one of the songs recorded on Beastie Boys’ vintage equipment, has the hilariously memorable rhyming couplet, “Angelica, she’s a bloodsucker!” Naturally, this song with a dirty guitar groove is about a village bicycle-riding maneater. The offshore account holding, out of touch millionaire (“he’s been dying since the day he was born / boxes of watches that have never been worn“) are mocked in ‘Rich Man’.

Except for a few rare moments, like a freight locomotive, ‘Take Control’ is loud and pretty much never lets up. This is not the kind of album you should be listening to if you have anger management issues. It’s too bad that summer festival season is another 8 months, because this is exactly the kind of music to incite a mosh pit. Please enjoy responsibly.

7.5/10

‘Take Control’, the sophomore album from Kent punk duo Slaves, will be out this Friday, the 30th of September on Virgin EMI.

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