Friday, 5 June 2015

No. 14 Slaves - A Punk Revival

There's nothing like a bit of loud noise to get you pumped for a dreary Tuesday morning. Monday officially marked the beginning of summer thus licencing Brits everywhere to scoff  "Some summer eh!" as they peer through the windscreen at the spitting raindrops on their way to work. The release of Slaves' eagerly anticipated second album: Are You Satisfied? perfectly coincides with this very moment and, for the half hour or so I spent listening to the it, I was transported to a grim, grey industrial estate somewhere in Kent to immerse myself in a performance filled with attitude and anger.

With a stripped back sound consisting of only gravelly electric guitar, drums bashed to within an inch of their lives and vocals even more aggressive than the forefathers of punk like the Sex Pistols or The Ramones themselves, the band are really making a statement with their music. What that statement is, I'm still not entirely sure but if you shout it loud enough like they do it doesn't even matter. If there is something more quintessentially British than punk music and the word 'Oi' then I have yet to hear it with Slaves making use of both in their revitalisation of a genre which has struggled to find it's feet in British culture since Johhny Rotten started doing those Countryfile adverts. Maidstone's own dynamic duo of lead shoutist/drummer Isaac Holden and guitarist/co-shouter Laurie Vincent are bringing back the roots of punk rock to a younger generation in a music industry which is almost unrecognisable from the time when the genre's greats were clashing, protesting and offending monarchs.
     They have done so with integrity fully intact. Contrary to what their name suggests, they have not sold-out or become slaves to the overproduced, industrialised machine of today's musical environment. Each song feels like a live performance meaning the record as a whole feels like a raucous concert from wherever it is you are listening. Opening with stand out single and my favourite: The Hunter, the words are chanted while the instrumental builds in intensity as the song really comes to life. The same effect is used in the following track Cheer Up London which get the record roaring into life. These songs have everything you need to make a classic punk hit; the choruses are anthemic, the instrumental is rough not refined and each one captures the, at times, hidden British passion for 'getting rowdy'.

     However the distinguishing detail in Are You Satisfied? is the lyrics. What they may lack in anti-establishment outcry or political messages in relation to traditional punk artists, they more than make up for with the delivery. The words come at a furious pace, bellowed or chanted and I can see the potential influences of modern UK grime and garage rap creeping in in the rhythmic way each line is belted out. In any case, politics isn't their main concern with the main focus of the lyrics centring around social commentaries and personal encounters. Holden himself urged fans at a recent show to “Leave politics out of this, I'm fed up of hearing about it.” when greeted with "We hate the Tories" chants reverberating around the venueMaking their name on the live circuit for their vigorous performances, it is no surprise that the best songs capture the excitement and insanity of the concerts. One of the few shortcomings in the album is that some songs struggle to make this transition yet they have been much more successful in doing so than they were with Sugar Coated Bitter Truth. One thing that really impresses me is that the album is never pretentious and some songs like Sockets and notably Feed The Mantaray seem to be just simple calculated silliness (or as Holden likes to call it "an aquatic ballad"). As is the case with many breakthrough albums, there are several songs which blend together in the middle of the record but the three opening and closing tracks are very strong, leaving any listener with an acute overall memory of a quality album in my opinion.

It appears to me that, on the whole, Slaves have produced a style of punk which may differ from the originals but is actually very well suited to the modern listener. Essentially it is the roadman, slang-using, trackie-wearing teenage son of classic punk who can relate to the modern day audience. It is a classless genre, which can be appreciated by Jordan in Hackney as well as Gerald in Windsor. Unfortunately, acts as original as this are something of rarity nowadays but when one like Slaves comes around, it cannot be overlooked.

As usual you can find Slaves' Are You Satisfied? and more on the Not Now Playlist on spotify.

Until next time...