Kent-duo Slaves unleash their second album, ‘Take Control’, but is it up to scratch?
Following up a Mercury-nominated début album is never going to be an easy task, especially with a lot of people already doubting the band’s capabilities, labelling them as fake, repetitive and having nothing left to offer.
That’s not entirely accurate. The best way to open up a new album and blow away any lingering doubt is by playing the strongest song, ‘Spit It out’. It’s pure punk aggression, making you pump your fists into the air and head-bang – if you’re into that kind of thing, of course. It’s the simple musical equivalent of meat-and-potatoes, but it works a treat with its infectious hooks. There’s no time left to digest what they’ve just served you as a starter, because ‘Hypnotized’ continues the filthy raw round that the duo want you to fully embrace and rock out to.
The new album was produced by former Beastie Boys member Mike D, even lending his voice to the next track, ‘Consume Or Be Consumed’, which is a baffling mess of hip-hop breeding with punk. Despite the self-indulged cameo from the producer, it’s somehow catchy but does require multiple listens. It’s a grower at best. The title track is hypnotically sharp in pinpointing its intended target in the lyrics, clocking in at a fleeting 1 minute 52 seconds, while ‘Rich Man’ and ‘Play Dead’ bring the pace down a level. Both tracks trudge along nicely, getting your head nodding and foot tapping along to the beat. ‘Rich Man’ is basically a punk-ish statement of two fingers up to the upper class, and let’s face it, there had to be a song on the album like this.
The total running time of the album is 44 minutes and 22 seconds, spread over sixteen tracks, which makes for an average of just over three minutes per song. This is keeping within the punk blueprints and it’s naturally good for those limited attention spans out there, yet for those who struggle with even that, there’s three utterly pointless filler ‘tracks’ on there, two of which are just worthless sound-bites. It’s at this point on the album that marks the change, where the quality goes down a notch along with the general pace, especially on the next track, ‘People that You Meet’ which begins with the spoken words of ‘I feel like shit’, almost as if the duo are now utterly depleted. Perhaps they would have been better taking the tally down from sixteen songs to a solid ten, while refining those in order to be the best offerings possible.
The final handful of tracks are more mellow and experimental, not least ‘Steer Clear’, which with its electronic vibe sounds completely out of place amongst the rest of the album, containing dark lyrics of “please don’t kill yourself behind that steering wheel”. It feels like a rather clumsy effort, but the message is there and hits home. ‘Cold Hard Floors’ is the longest offering at 4 minutes 15 seconds, but unfortunately the experimenting goes a little too far when you hear sighing and even a burp towards the end. It’s just another sign of slapping on filler tracks that do nothing more than contributing towards the tarnishing of the record.
Lyrically the album is a mixed bag of rebellion, confusion, humour and darkness. Some of it is fitting for festival chanting, some of it inaudible, while the rest is baffling nonsense. Producer Mike D has said of the album, ‘I feel right now the world needs an album like this’. Perhaps the music world does need a shakeup, but unfortunately the number of avenues for this type of music to reach a wider audience is extremely limited, relying heavily on good word-of-mouth. Luckily, the word on the street is mostly positive. By the halfway mark the album begins to surrender to the limitations of only having two members in the line-up. In the end it’s balls-to-the-wall punk-rock, which in a sea of musical dirge, is a fiery modern rendering of nostalgia, nothing more.