This unruly second album delivers a sucker punch to anyone who had the Kent duo down as a novelty act
Anyone expecting the sneering swagger of ‘Cheer Up London’ or the gleefully dumb provocation of ‘Where’s Your Car Debbie?’ will be confounded by the new album from Kent duo [a]Slaves[/a]. Those memorable songs, taken from last year’s debut ‘Are You Satisfied?’, combined hard-boiled punk with the sugar-coated sweetness of pop. ‘Take Control’, the swift follow-up, is a more mixed bag, albeit one that sloshes with the bile and venom that made us love Isaac Holman and Laurie Vincent in the first place.
It was produced by Michael ‘Mike D’ Diamond of the Beastie Boys, though sounds like it’s held together with snot and sawdust, lending the record a sense of spontaneity that runs through all 16 tracks. Lead single ‘Spit It Out’ could have been included on the band’s debut, all full-bodied production and a chaotic, lurching chorus designed to be chanted at live shows. But most of the album resides in much murkier depths: see the scrappy, DIY scuzz of ‘F**k The Hi-Hat’ (44 seconds long, and hooked around drummer and vocalist Isaac screaming the title) and the disenfranchised howl of ‘Take Control’. Even in the absence of the first album’s lightness of touch, there’s a lot of fun to be had here. The record pulsates with the same themes of rebellion and self-actualisation while, for example, closing track ‘Same Again’ is a thrilling, impassioned protest against the lure of the nine-to-five and the local boozer: “Same again / Week in, week out / I’ll get the next one / I’ll get the next one”. And the gristle and grind of ‘Hypnotised’ should certainly dispel any lingering doubts about Slaves’ punk credentials.
There is some filler, however. ‘Consume Or Be Consumed’, which features Mike D rapping, is underwritten and slight. STD’s/PHD’s’ is a dirge-like mix of lumbering synth and drum machine. Still, Laurie and Isaac deserve props for such an uncompromising album. They’re both massive Mike D fans, yet on ‘People That You Meet’ Isaac heckles: “He used to be a Beastie Boy / But now he works for me”. Talk about killing your heroes. That line, like Slaves, proves punk is alive, kicking and spitting.