Kent’s finest punk duo, and certainly one of the generations’ best bands, have recently released their second album, ‘Take Control.’ Laurie Vincent and Isaac Holman make up fiery rough two-piece punk band Slaves, with Laurie on guitar and Isaac on drums and vocals. All their music that has come out in the past has been absolutely class, bringing a whole new meaning to the punk-grime genre. They’re heavy and gritty and intense, with a crazy savage presence. In 2012, they released the unofficial album ‘Sugar Coated Bitter Truth,’ which is one of the finest albums ever released, with tracks like ‘Suicide’ and ‘Black Rose’ which will blow your mind. The album was referred to as their ‘Bleach’ by Wonk Unit’s Alex, and he was right. It’s a pure explosion of energy and hard-core punk, with a vicious undertone to it. 2015’s ‘Are You Satisfied?’ is equally as raw and intense. Full of tracks like ‘Live Like An Animal,’ ‘The Hunter,’ ‘Sockets’ and ‘Wow!!! 7am’ it stands out on its own. It can’t really be linked back to any band and that’s the great thing about Slaves. They’ve stuck to their roots, with uncompromising, unorthodox punk which is raw, rough, and pure.
Because of their incredible discography, including unreleased tracks from pre-2012, like ‘Bad Machine’ and ‘How’s Amelia?, the hype for ‘Take Control’ was unreal. Just a year on since they released their debut, Laurie and Isaac have come back with ‘Take Control’. It’s been building up for well over a year now; the band debuted ‘Spit It Out’ B-side ‘Facing The Wall’ at Reading festival last year, and have already played ‘Rich Man’ at a variety of shows over the summer. Before the album came out on Friday (September 30th), four tracks had been released from it; ‘Spit It Out,’ ‘People That You Meet,’ ‘Take Control’ and ‘Consume or Be Consumed.’ From those tracks alone, I was convinced the album would be incredible; the filthy grit and rawness of the tracks convinced me ‘Take Control’ would be outstanding. But when I heard it, honestly it didn’t blow me away at all. Some tracks are incredible- ‘Play Dead and ‘Same Again’ are personal favourites. But others, like ‘Angelica’ and ‘Cold Hard Floor’ are a bit mediocre and rushed in my opinion. Some parts of the album have an element of laziness about them, almost as if Isaac and Laurie had a passive attitude when recording. Following up such a killer debut is hard, but can be done; just look at bands like Catfish and the Bottlemen and Arctic Monkeys. To be completely honest, it was a disappointment listening to the album- some parts just sounded a bit samey and normal, it didn’t seem as if any boundaries had been broken and the increased usage of synth sounds and drum machines did make me worried the band may have lost their DIY edge on record. Live, they are incredible still and I don’t thing they ever will lose that appeal. But the lacklustre bite of the album has been a disappointment; it’s quite hit and miss, with a pretty bland sound overall. Other elements of it are fantastic though, with critiques of the sound being quite basic. First off, the artwork is stunning. Designed by Laurie, who is a wonderfully talented artist (check out his Young Lovers Club range) it’s striking, and powerful and almost intimidating. It’s so boldly noticeable, with a savage intriguing aura about it. The balaclava has been a repeated theme in his artwork and its intense striking look definitely matches some of the lyrics in the album. ‘Rich Man’ and ‘Consume or Be Consumed’ have such fantastic lyrics, with a sort of revolutionary rebellious anarchic sound behind them. It’s just a shame the overall album couldn’t live up to some of the album’s individual elements which are mind-blowing.
Track by track review
1)cSpit It Out
The first single to be released from the album, ‘Spit It Out’ is an immense deep dark track, with an absolutely mental guitar sound. It’s screechy and rough, and perfect for crazy hectic mosh pits. Lyrics like ‘pull yourself together boy you’re only 23’ are so real and gritty, and the track is such a pure punk rock piece. Isaac’s voice as well is rough and gritty, with Laurie’s tenacious screams in the background adding to the thrill of ‘Spit It Out’.
The track starts with this roaring guitar bass line before Isaac kicks in with the heavy blaring drums. His voice is low and blurred, paired with an immense heavy guitar. His screams of ‘fuck no!’ accompanied with his spoken words ‘no thanks’ make the track so real and vivid and rough. The track reminds me a lot of ‘Ninety Nine’ from their debut, with its heavy shrieking screams of ‘Hypnotised TV! Hypnotised HD! Hypnotised 3G!’
3) Consume or Be Consumed
Just 13 seconds in you get Isaac’s iconic scream ripping through Laurie’s heavy bass line, which to me is one of the best riffs on the album. This track is the closest on the album to hip-hop and grime, with Isaac rapping over the heavy guitar and slower drums, with the lines ‘I’ve got the whole fucking scene on my dinner plate, try and imitate intimidate and get incinerate.’ Halfway through Isaac shouts ‘cut both my legs off’ followed by his graphic screaming and sound of a rotating saw. It’s such a brilliantly messy track, with great connotations of what humans have become with the line ‘consume, or be consumed.’ The only part I’m not 100% keen on is Mike D’s rap- it adds nothing to the track, but it’s easy to forget that mediocrity as it’s followed by Isaac’s gritty raspy brawls and the lines ‘you will consume, you will eat what you are fed, breathing in the dirty air people’ and ‘eat it! Take control’
4) Take Control
The album’s title track is a proper Slaves track, with the heavy guitar and Isaac’s scream of ‘taaake control’ in the chorus. Laurie’s in the back, with the line ‘take control’ after each of Isaac’s lines, similar to the structure of ‘Beauty Quest’ and ‘Despair and Traffic’. It’s such a heavy track, with a really great ferocious drum beat. The only problem with the track is it’s far too short! Like a true Slaves track, the lyrics are so blunt and honest too, like ‘maybe it’s a setup, maybe it’s a hoax, talking to the manager, laughing at his jokes’ as well as ‘questioning my sanity, questioning my health’
5) Mr Industry (Skit)
Skits are always something Slaves have been into, and they definitely explored that a lot more on this album, starting with ‘Mr Industry.’ Featuring the lines ‘oh here he is Mr Industry, oh I fucking hate the industry,’ it’s a simple addition to the album, but still channels their aggression and power
6) Rich Man
‘Rich Man! I’m not your bitch man’- what a lyric. Laurie’s guitar on this track, especially at the very end of the chorus, is pure fire. Lines like ‘he keeps his money in an offshore account, don’t want the taxman to see the amount’ are so relevant to the current-day political climate, with Slaves bluntly addressing this in their music. Their punk lyrics are there too, especially with the lyric ‘he sucks the marrow out of blood soaked bones’. It’s such a real track, addressing all sorts of problems; ‘Rich Man’ has this really honest blunt truthfulness to it, and is a great track at gigs too. It’s slightly slower paced, but in turn gives Laurie a chance to play more complex riffs which he channels throughout the track
7) Play Dead
‘Play Dead’ is genuinely one of my favourites, just because of the grittiness of the guitar. It’s really heavy and such an intense head-banger. The lyrics are predominately ‘too connected, disconnected, switch it on, switch it off’ and I love the anger behind this, basically saying people are becoming so connected and intertwined that they’re losing their actual connections in real life. Isaac’s voice is on form yet again; the build-up of his wild screams at the end showcases that incredibly raspy voice he has, making the savage intense punk sound on the record even stronger
This track is a weird one for me- a bit hit and miss. The guitar riff is great, and really catchy but after a while it does get a bit repetitive. The lyrics are good, but they don’t come across as that bold or archaic as the actual tune gets a bit same old. It’s not a boring track, and the repetitive guitar riff is certainly not monotonous. Just there’s something missing, which to me comes down to the guitar. At around the two-minute mark, the guitar changes slightly but the soft backing vocals that kick in, and the start of that same riff again make the track a little bit lacking in that rough punk quality which tracks like ‘Take Control’ and ‘Spit it Out’ possess
9) Fuck The Hi-Hat
The lyrics are funny with this track, and the burst of intensity makes it seem like a perfect track for moshing to at gigs. But there’s something about it that makes it seem like they’re just taking the piss (which is funny as it comes across as a light hearted track) yet Laurie’s guitar is still great. I feel like Laurie’s really improved as a guitarist, but if you listen back to tracks like ‘Cheer Up London’ and ‘Suicide’ it does make some of the riffs on the album feel a little bit weak
10) Gary (Skit)
This piece is another skit, starting with the line ‘the person trying to contact you is standing outside’ in a mimicked American accent. The person who voiced the skit is actually Olly, who most people know as Slaves’ mantaray and old merch guy. It’s a little joke piece the band have just chucked in there, but that’s the frustrating bit- it’s all over the place, with random pieces and riffs, kind of messy in a lazy rushed way. Nothing wrong with the skits, but to me they just doesn’t quite fit in
11) People That You Meet
This track actually features Wolf Alice’s Joel on drums, meaning there are two drummers playing at the same time. And unlike the last few tracks, it’s a refreshing piece of Slaves-style punk. They keep in their humour and banter, joking about the lady in the sex shop with a beard, and with Isaac cheekily shouting about producer Mike D ‘he used to be a Beastie Boy but now he works for me.’ The guitar is really heavy and such a raw catchy riff, which is such a key factor in good Slaves tracks. It’s just a really fun track, which behind the comedic edge has fantastic guitar and a really heavy grime-style sound.
12) Steer Clear
Honestly, I really hate this track. It sounds nothing like Slaves at all, and whilst adapting and changing as a band isn’t a bad thing this track is just a bit bland and basic and monotonous. The lyrics are good, but the guitar and synth sounds and automated drums just sound shit. Part of the band’s incredible sound comes from the heavy guitar and Isaac’s aggressive thrashing of the drums, paired with his gritty raw screaming. None of those classic Slaves elements appear in ‘Steer Clear’, instead they’ve been compromised for something deathly dull and actually hard to listen to
13) Cold Hard Floor
Again, I’m not too big a fan of this track. Isaac’s vocals are good, really gritty and raspy and harsh, but the guitar and drums are a bit slow and boring. The track is really bland and repetitive, and it doesn’t stir or evoke anything at all. Part of me thinks the track is so dull and, unlike their other tracks, maybe it’s just a piss-take, but because some elements of it are good, like the lyrics, it seems unlikely. It’s a shame because I expected a lot more from this album, but it’s tracks like this which have let me down. Isaac’s barks and screams near the end are good, but not paired with the basicness of the track; it just doesn’t flow like a piece of punk music I’m used to hearing from Slaves
14) STD’s and PHD’s
Luckily this is the part where the album picks itself back up, with a great heavy track: STD’s/PHD’s. It’s got a more synthetic sound, but actually works so well; this is because the synth sounds really good, not bland and artificial, and Isaac’s raw voice rips through those hard-core punk lyrics. To be completely honest, I’d prefer the tune and vocals to be with heavier drumming and an actual guitar riff, but the transition to the more synth sound works well on this track- yes it could be heavier, but it’s retained their raw rough bite through the lyrics and grittiness of the vocals.
I don’t even know what to say about this track- it’s so weak and bland it’s easier to think of it as a joke rather than accept it’s a serious piece of music. The lyrics are a bit repetitive, the vocals are messy and come off as lazy, and the drumming is on a synth machine. It works so badly to me, and hasn’t got any of those raw DIY punk ethics the band display partially throughout the album. Lines like ‘she’ll do whatever it takes, bend over backwards for you’ are evocative though, and the connotations behind the ‘bloodsucker’ character are really interesting, and lyrically it’s a pretty vibrant piece. Laurie’s guitar solo is quite boring and sounds so basic though; aside from the lyrics, there’s nothing in ‘Angelica’ which pushes the boundaries the duo are known for breaking. Hopefully Isaac’s laugh at the end means it’s a joke track, as in all honesty, it’s a bit crap.
16) Same Again
Like the album starts on a high, it finishes on one too; they definitely chose the best track to end the album. ‘Same Again’ is insane- it’s messy, rough and a proper Slaves-punk style head banger. The DIY punk sound is kept as they have the heavy guitar, drum smashing, and authentic rough vocals. It’s such a messy track with blistering guitar throughout. The screams and heaviness of that guitar two-and-a-half minutes in takes you right back to ‘Sugar Coated Bitter Truth’ time, brilliantly reminiscent of ‘White Knuckle Ride.’ The line ‘same again, week in week out’ is so evocative and emotive; it’s just a fantastically gripping track, with Isaac screaming his frustration at ‘thinking out loud about a disease’ but ‘thank fuck I’m OK.’
Top tracks: ‘Hypnotised,’ ‘Play Dead’ and ‘Same Again’
Album rating: ★★★☆☆
You can purchase the album from their website, or listen via iTunes or Spotify