The first I heard of Slaves was back in 2015, half asleep on a long car journey (just to clarify I wasn’t driving.) From the moment ‘The Hunter’ came on Radio One I turned it up, intrigued with the blunt lyrics and punky rock rhythm. Sick of hearing the same old radio shit, their sound hooked me instantly and I wanted more – so I did some Spotify research and they soon made it to my starred playlist (where only the creme de la creme go). And on Wednesday night they proved why they deserved to be on that playlist.
Rock City was packed out when we rolled up just after the support acts finished and the crowd was literally electric with anticipation. Makeshift paper signs were plastered all over the walls warning that ‘strobes will be used during the performance’ – if I wasn’t excited for a good gig before I certainly was now. The Kent duo provoked a deafening reaction when they slunk on stage and within seconds their distinct, blaring fusion of shredding voices and pounding beats tore above the crowd’s rumble.
Barely five minutes in and Isaac’s top had disappeared somewhere into the mist of hazy stage smoke and flashing lights – apparently somewhat of a trademark for the band’s singer and stand-up drummer. Laurie (whose top somehow remains on throughout the energetic performance) slams his guitar releasing those jerky, menacing rifs that caught my attention in the first place. And it seems no one can help but jump along (including me).
Slaves formed in 2012 after they split from a bigger band, deciding they could do better on their own. They’ve clearly lived up to that choice, with their second album Take Control released in September, making it to the top 6 of the UK album charts.
Isaac’s from Tunbridge Wells, Laurie from Maidstone; and despite the band’s persistant pointing out that they’re not from London, their accents cut into the air as cockney. They burst into ‘Fuck the Hi-Hat’ a short rant about how fans used to assume they were from London, as Isaac explained during the gig.
There’s just something about these two boys that separate them from the rest – their cheeky speeches inbetween songs, laughter at the (high) number of erratic dancers and crowd surfers being plucked out of the crowd by bouncers, their fun rebelliousness while performing.
But underneath all that there’s the resonating messages that are thrown at you. There’s not really time to think about it when you’re screaming along, or when you’re mesmerised with their powerful, jumpy set; but they’ll hit you after. When you’re slumped on a bus, or lying in bed, or drifting off in the bath, you unwravel all the lyrics that are deeper than they seem when you first look at Slaves. If you dig through the angry, angsty front there are hidden poetical, political messages about climate change, corruption, suicide and how people need to lighten up (Cheer up London – an absolute classic). Not just an excuse for two tattooed young boys to have a rant and a jolly on stage.
‘The Hunter’ – the song that made me recognise Slaves (and still one if my favourites) is a carefully constructed vision of authority and greed. ‘The people are freezing and the water is warm and the ice caps are melting what will happen when they’re gone?’ The first verse suggests those who are in charge are wrecking the planet through global warming, and the second creates a crude crime illustration of punishing the poor, but basically shows how power corrupts those who have it and how ignorant they become to the problems of the lower class. ‘Your justice cut the hands of the thief he was starving his children were crying to be fed, and now they’re bawling and dying but at least you are ahead.’ Very deep for a couple of edgy boys.
The people are freezing
And the water is warm
And the ice caps are melting
What will happen when they’re gone
They don’t really do love songs, which there is definitely more space in the market for. As much as I love a good cry-my-eyes-out heartbreak love song it’s nice to just relax and know that there are other topics in this world to talk (or sing) about.
Highlights were ‘Lies’ from their most recent album, ‘Hey’ and, of course, ‘Where’s your Car Debbie?’ (for all of which I got a bit overexcited and jeopardised the recovery of my sore throat by pelting out the lyrics).
The pair ooze originality and comical genius – their random music videos get me every time. Slaves’ raw voices, ability to pump up the atmosphere and catchy, dark tunes are the culmination of everything that makes a band good. And they’re only just getting started.