Slaves – ‘Are You Satisfied?’

Tunbridge Wells duo set the dogs on apathy and conformity on rabble-rousing debut

Their borstal-boy beats and primitive style might lead you to believe Slaves are angry, but they’re not, they’re just disappointed. Disappointed with complacent, grumpy Londoners, disappointed with apathetic twenty-somethings for not getting off their arses and taking a stand before they’re too institutionalised to care, and disappointed in the lack of personality in pop. Singing drummer Isaac Holman and guitarist Laurie Vincent are so larger-than-life they’re practically cartoon characters. Holman looks like a young Ray Winstone in a second-hand Hawaiian shirt, and Vincent is an over-inked, dapper skinhead who shares his bandmate’s enthusiasm for stripping onstage. Two tattooed tearaways who came together in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, they channel their despair into a modern rendering of Sham 69’s raw, charismatic punk and the gritty 1970s pub rock that’s shot through Palma Violets’ recent second album, ‘Danger In The Club’.

‘Are You Satisfied?’ follows 2013’s self-released mini-album ‘Sugar Coated Bitter Truth’, which featured ‘Girl Fight’, a 15-second observational storm about females brawling. They’ve used their major-label debut to rally the troops rather than just jeer at them from the sidelines. Every song here is a call to arms or an affirmative flip of the table. ‘Do Something’ is the most literal of the duo’s punches to passivity. “You are not stuck in traffic”, insists Holman over Vincent’s rusty-razor guitar and his own rudimentary drums, “You are traffic… Move!”. ‘The Hunter’ shares the same relentless rhythm and exasperation, while ‘Cheer Up London’ picks up the pace for a barbed attack on the rat race (“Put another O on your paycheck/Are you done digging your grave yet?”).

The closest Slaves get to a love song is ‘Sockets’, essentially The White Stripes’ ‘Fell In Love With A Girl’ whacked through a meat mincer, but the most unlikely of these 13 songs is the title track. Over acoustic strumming, Vincent does his best girl-group backing coos and a croaky Holman searchingly asks “Brother, are you satisfied”, coming on like Jamie T in dire need of a Lemsip. It’s only a minute and a half long, but on the bones of a melody strangely reminiscent of long-forgotten 1998 Mercury Prize winners Gomez’s ‘Whippin’ Piccadilly’, they drive home their anti-indifference stance with a sensitivity that’s just as striking as when they stomp.

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