Author: Joe Fletcher
The 13th of November saw the return of punk-duo Slaves – Isaac Holman on drums and vocals and Laurie Vincent on guitar – to the Students Union. Their simple, aggressive riffs and belligerent, shouted vocals that fly perpendicular to the manufactured noise of today’s popular music. The rawness they bring, as well as the energy which injects into the crowd, is always a welcome relief, and this was again the case on Sunday night. However, we must question if the pair have undeniably lost some of the spark which made them so special and exciting only a year ago.
A degree of the boisterousness and energy of their performance at, for example, Reading Festival 2015, did seem to be lacking. They gave me the impression of a band whizzing through a set for the umpteenth time, ostensibly ticking all the boxes – singing loudly and noisily, playing their instruments well, interacting with the crowd to some degree – but lacking the same desire and general spirit that they held when less established; during the earlier days of their success.
Generally, songs from new album Take Control failed to whir the crowd into the same frenzy as The Hunter, Cheer up London and the like. The stroke of a solitary chord of the latter anthem bought instantaneous recognition and an anticipatory buzz from the audience, while at other times the atmosphere fell strangely flat. Songs such as STD’s/ PHD’s and Steer Clear may have a story to tell, but are perhaps best kept away from the gigs. Lacking as they do the punch and bombast of the crowd favourites (e.g. ‘The Hunter’) – most of which come from debut album Are you Satisfied? Pauses by the band to personally address an argument occurring in the crowd, as well as to appraise the security personnel, also led to dull moments. Such actions are certainly admirable, but don’t exactly scream ‘rock and roll’ and interrupted the flow of things.
A la Take Control however, maybe the album just needs some getting used to. At the Cardiff gig last November, Are you Satisfied? had been out almost 6 months; by contrast Take Control was only released on the 30th of September this year and I must admit that, having listened to it again post-performance, it has grown on me – Lies and Rich Man are up there with the pair’s best songs.
Indeed, the band’s style continues to render them strikingly different from anyone else I have seen live – as well as a lot more fun. I hope, however, that they can recover some of their earlier verve. Stories such as that about guiding a girl back to her car while a Sasquatch is on the loose (a prelude to the song Where’s your car Debbie) were gleefully stupid and self-deprecatory at first. This time out however, the band – like the tales themselves – seem just a little tired.