I caught Slaves supporting Jamie T at Alexandra Palace last November. With absolutely no knowledge of the band I kept an open mind and was delighted when two scruffy looking blokes walked on wearing button up shirts and spoke and sung with bright cockney accents. Their lead singer stood there stiffly thwacking the drumkit in front of him looking like he was marching to the beat. Their sound was reminiscent of the Punk bands that didn’t really give a flying fuck like the Sex Pistols. I found myself laughing at the bizzareness of the band just as much as I wanted to jump around to the racket they were making. Their lyrics were extremely simple and often laughable. They came off as a novelty act, but like all novelty acts in music, I was worried that these guys would just be a one-trick-pony in that they could only deliver a blistering live show.
Compared to that show, Slaves’ debut album is certainly a lot more diverse. There’s a lot more post-production that’s gone on than what you’d expect from a band that sound so raw live. The title track on this album is a mere acoustic ballad with some lovely little piano keys that show a bit of creativeness from the band. There’s an abundance of guitar leads that are backed up by psychedelic guitar tones and vocal effects such as on the track ‘Do Something’. Unfortunately it’s the tracks like these that prove that Slaves are unfortunately a novelty act. A novelty act that is so charming at points that they’ve managed to get some airplay on BBC Radio 1’s playlist, but like all novelty acts the charm soon wears thin. So many of the lyrics on this album aren’t as witty as they appeared to be live. ‘The Hunter’ holds some of that charm because of the fact it’s one of the most raw on the album. Even when their lead singer Laurie Vincent is chatting rubbish about how experts invert the facts about climate change, the moment that heavy-yet-simple riffs kicks in with that killer chorus it becomes redundant. The same can be said for the song ‘Hey’ which blunders through with an extremely punk outer-shell.
It’s this album’s innards that aren’t exactly Punk though. They carry a bravado and sense of humour but they aren’t satirising anything on this album other than themselves, like they’re the pun of the joke. The lyrics on this album would carry a lot more weight if the humour was paired with some genuine thoughts on society. ‘Cheer Up London’ has lyrics that could have plucked out of the air; ‘Put another hole in your paycheck/ Are you digging your grave yet?’ they sing over and over before plundering into the (admittedly thunderously anthemic) chorus plastering us with the message of how working all your life is bad with them screaming ‘ YOU’RE DEAD ALREADY, DEAD DEAD ALREADY’. There’s an overwhelming feeling that these lyrics were written in order to keep up with their image and that they don’t genuinely care about any of these issues.
Even musically the simplicity – which was part of their charm – sometimes becomes overly simple like the song ‘Wow!!!7AM’ which just plods on through the punk handbook with a very uninspired riff. Yet there are an abundance of tracks on this album that are enjoyable due to the fact that they nail the angry aesthetic such as the ridiculously fun ‘Feed The Mantaray’ and ‘Ninety Nine’. Slaves will surely continue to get airplay on Radio 1 for a while, but if they want to be the class clowns in UK rock music while taking a slight political approach, they’ve still got some work to do on their execution.
Best Tracks: Feed The Mantaray, The Hunter, Hey