Since it’s inception in the 1970s, punk has slowly become more of a fashion statement than a social or musical movement. Teenagers wear spiked hair and ripped jeans, even listen to punk music, yet spare no thought for the notions behind the whole movement. Kentish lads Isaac Holman and Laurie Vincent, however, have proved that the ideals of punk are still very much alive; not in boots and safety pins, but in waistcoats and long white socks.
After releasing a string of singles over the past two years, Slaves have finally dropped their debut album, ‘Are You Satisfied?’. As hype goes, these singles built a picture of a fresh, vitriolic sound and a political edge that harks back to the glory days of punk rock. While the re-awakening of a generation of young people is quite a task to perform, this record stands a reasonable chance of grasping its message and shouting it loud.
The album opens with the track ‘The Hunter’, in which a sinister riff and snarling vocal delivery blend perfectly with obvious themes of anti-establishments to provide an eye-opening entreé to this punk rock feast. Where many musicians tread lightly in metaphor and clever imagery, Slaves open up a salvo of bloodthirsty chants in language that is plain as day. Why dabble in pretentious “ifs” and “buts” when you can shout your beliefs at the top of your lungs?
The album’s singles, as is usually the case, utilize a more accessible sound than the rest of the album. After opening with two well-polished singles, the third track, ‘Sockets’, throws the listener into a no-holds-barred sonic assault of harsh, fast guitars and howling screams that may have the faint of heart running to lift the needle. The tracks ‘Despair and Traffic’ and ‘Wow!!!7AM’ also demonstrate that this is no sellout foray into punk culture; Slaves are the real deal. Instead of straddling the line between the underground and pop sensibilities, this album accepts that many people will not find its contents palatable, in fact, it relishes in it. ‘Are You Satisfied?’ is built for angry punks, by angry punks.
However, despite its strict adherence to the punk ethos, this record is peppered with influences and nods to other genres of music. Growing up in a teen culture dominated by hip hop has certainly rubbed off on the pair, with single ‘Cheer Up London’ featuring verses that are delivered like a grime rap, perhaps a nod to the capital’s rebel culture. Electronic music has also left its imprint on the band in the song ‘Ninety Nine’, which is driven by a dirty drum machine beat and melodies that will leave you wondering whether they were made by guitar or synth. Perhaps the most extravagant arrangement on this album is the closing track, ‘Sugar Coated Bitter Truth’. This track sucks the listener into a rolling collage of guitar delay, whilst Holman delivers some of his most blatantly political lyrics, solidifying the band’s underlying seriousness before bringing the album to a triumphant close.
In short, ‘Are You Satisfied?’ is the first record in a long time that truly ticks every box in the punk genre. It exposes a deep dissatisfaction with modern society, but delivers it in a way that is both playfully cheeky and darkly menacing. Watch this space, punk is alive and it’s kicking out at the world.
‘Are You Satisfied?’ is out now on Virgin EMI.
The full track-listing for ‘Are You Satisfied?’ is as follows…