Sometimes it seems that Punk needs to be at war with someone, or something, even if that happens to be itself. For every punk – self-identified or otherwise – there will be legion of others standing up to denounce them as ‘fakes’ or ‘posers’, as people trying to appropriate punk’s edgy, outsider, image to create a veneer of danger around their middle-class existence. So was the reaction to Slaves’ 2015 début – major label released – album, Are You Satisfied?, which saw some love it while others hated it… and everything that Slaves apparently stood for.
With their second full-length release, Take Control, the English duo of Laurie Vincent and Isaac Holman aren’t likely to sway the haters to their cause but, for the rest of us, Slaves have delivered a solid effort. Recorded in Santa Monica, and produced by Mike D of Beastie Boys fame, Take Control is more polished than its predecessor, but that polish hasn’t come at the expense of the pair’s gritty and punchy sound. Tracks like Hypnotised and Fuck The Hi Hat are raucous, abrasive affairs, with the former bearing a noise-rock vibe while the latter could almost be mistaken for one of the album’s skits – Mr Industry and Gary – as it lasts a mere 44 seconds and the lyrics are simply “fuck the hi hat” repeated.
Mike D’s influence is felt on Consume Or Be Consumed – a track on which he features – and STD’s/PHD’s, both of which bear more than a passing resemblance to the Beastie Boys. Mike D isn’t the only artist to guest on the record, with indie musician Baxter Dury appearing on Steer Clear, a song that mixes things up by featuring drum machine percussion and muted harmonics from the guitar. Slaves’ ideological position of overcoming, or not being constrained by, societal norms and expectations is given clear voice on Rich Man – with the not subtle line, “rich man/I’m not your bitch, man” – and closing track Same Again, which contemplates the monotony of the eat-sleep-work-consume milieu of contemporary life.
Take Control feels a little on the long side – which seems odd to say of an album 42 minutes long – but this is probably a result of the album containing 16 tracks. Luckily, Slaves have developed their sound and introduced different sonic elements, with the plodding The People That You Meet and the indie/garage vibe of Lies providing interesting changes of tone. To be sure, Slaves have their weak points and won’t appeal to all listeners – haters gonna hate, after all – but with their latest outing they have shown growth as a band, as well as a strong, assertive personality.