31 May 2015

Slaves / Are You Satisfied? (album review)

First things first, Slaves; all-male Kent punk duo, comprised of stand-up drummer Isaac Holman and tattoo-artist guitarist Laurie Vincent. But of course, if you're reading this review you probably knew that. And if you've seen them live, you'll know they are literally one of the best bands on the circuit, genuinely deserving of fame and a major record deal. They're bursting with energy, and anger, and they're genuinely hilarious in between songs, which is strangely rare. They're a highly talented band who are completely venomous live, but hey! What you're reading now is a review of their debut record Are You Satisfied?, which is out tomorrow via major label EMI.

From the off, the album seems like something that could potentially be exciting. It's kicked off with The Hunter, which is an anti-climate change banger with a seriously menacing strut, and it's proceeded by Cheer Up London, another fantastic primitive post-Pistols punk number that just rips the piss outta gloomy London commuters. These are both pretty solid songs, even brilliant, and (as anyone who reads this blog a lot will know, I'm yearning for a band to tackle political issues) the subject matter is fairly important, and sets the rest of the album up to be maybe one of few Radio 1 friendly records to tackle political matters head on.

From there maybe, there's a couple more brilliant tracks; Sockets is a thrashy angsty l-u-v song of the crude skinhead variety, and even Despair and Traffic has enough of a oomph to it to ensure that the first four songs on the album are brilliant. But I guess, unfortunately, the record kind of begins to get stale around this point, as it kind of really begins to lose it's edge, and the lack of variety in Slaves' armory becomes really apparent.

It's all really same-as-but-not-quite-as-good-as-the-first-song from here - bar the acoustic title track, which is a weak 90 second acoustic hiccup - which is a shame really. The album tracks in the middle look away from climate change and the political stuff you want them to tackle and veer to sorta individual anecdotes that generally portray negative female stereotypes. Essentially the lyrics are a bit empty, and now that I mention it, the political statements are a bit nothing-y too. The 'experts' keeping our 'donations'? Hmmm. 'Don't trust the flies, they're government spies'?!? These aren't the statements of some people that know what they're angry about.

Slaves are certainly angry, but I don't think they're particularly sure what they're angry about. I mean they're not too fond of the 9 to 5 jobs types, but the seering apathy kind of wears thin after a while, like there's nothing they really suggest as a solution, and at times they seem to just  hate everyone with a 9 to 5 job instead of the system that favours them.

But I guess maybe the fact that they are so bloody angry is quite an asset too. Early single Hey is a live highlight, and the frightening riffs brighten the second half of the record right up, but it's wedged in between punch-free fillers Wow!!! 7AM and Live Like An Animal (which, to be fair, isn't as bad), which aren't anywhere near as catchy, fun or menacing as the singles.

As well, the production's kind of suspect. The clean cut singles are so squeaky clean that you'd be able to see your face in them, whilst the other songs are a bit more scrappy in their production with bits of white noise botched on at the beginning, and it just feels a bit forced.

And one more thing - where's Debbie's car at? That's another track that could have really improved this album.

So to conclude: all the fantastic, simple Slaves singles are here (although the 'LOOK LAURIE, MANTA RAYS' bit of ...Manta Ray is scrapped), but they're definitely the highlights. It's really easy to get bored of this record before finishing it, because every song is the same kinda thing, and because the lyrics get less interesting as the record goes on. But hey, it does mean that an angry punk band are being exposed to large amounts of people (even like Radio 1 crowds and stuff), which, even if they're far from perfect, can't be a bad thing. This record is an okay start for an otherwise incredible live band, so maybe if they sharpen up their lyrics, add a bit of variety, and maybe get even angrier, Slaves could be on for something pretty special in the future. But for now, they've put out a mediocre record and the best way to understand why they're so deserving of a major label deal is to go and see them live, because they're playing literally every festival in the world, ever.

Am I satisfied with this record? Not really, no.


(written by calum cashin)