Slaves have somehow managed to amplify their biting, raspy and caustic sound for their second studio album Take Control, emulating the harsh punk feel of their debut album Are You Satisfied? whilst preserving their primal, anarchic chaos.
Of course, anyone lucky enough to have seen Slaves in the flesh knows that their shows are fuelled with a raucous energy and deafeningly loud music; in that respect Take Control doesn’t disappoint. However, it also depicts a journey the band has taken (quite literally on People That You Meet) with a more polished sound yet retains the DIY, almost messy quality. Ferociously building guitar riffs and crashing drums remain prominent throughout – well, subtlety has never really been a strong point of Slaves has it? However, tracks like steer clear demonstrate how multi-dimensional Slaves are with a slower and emotional tale.
Take Control commences with lead single Spit It Out, and it’s an all guns blazing opener, with little restraint. Despite an oddly tranquil yet menacing opening, it erupts into the frenzied sound Slaves have become synonymous with. Thrashing guitars wrestle with thumping drums, competing to see who can be the loudest and match screeching, demonic vocals.
The mood is matched with the subsequent track Hypnotized and lets listeners know that Slaves are artists with a message, and are in no hurry for you to forget that. With the solid riffs and scratching sound, it harks back to earlier Slaves and is reminiscent of some of their earlier EPs.
Then Slaves drop Consume Or Be Consumed. With electro style beats coupled with aggressive yet whimsical lyrics and the iconic Slaves style, it is one of the most unique pieces on offer. With Beastie Boy’s Mike D offering his verse to complete the punk-rap combo and offering his service to produce the track, it does feel almost different to many of the other tracks on the album. It also showcases Laurie Vincent’s ability to rap himself, something previously seen on the wonderful cover of Skepta’s shutdown.
Following Consume or Be Consumed is the title track Take Control. A very Where’s Your Car Debbie-esque guitar riff is evident with the early portion of the song. With no intention of reinventing Slaves punk sound, it remains a very solid track from start to finish.
A simple Skit entitled ‘Mr. Industry’ with a possibly drunk man questioning how much Slaves really hate the industry.
Things pick up again with Rich Man which is possibly the most easy-listening on the album, yet brings it back to the Are You Satisfied? days of questioning and targeting the elite but also exhibits some extremely talented songwriting.
The hypnotising guitar riff of Play Dead is next, featuring Vincent desperately trying to ‘switch it on’. Essentially it’s a very simple very solid track, soaked with a brutish charm that works well with the Slaves style.
Lies offers something different, some actual singing and almost more subdued than the previous outings. However, it’s complimented by the Slaves style, angsty lyrics and a confidence unrivalled by many modern punk bands.
Then straight into true Slaves chaos with the short but sweet Fuck The Hi-Hat, a mere 44 seconds of pure anarchic chaos. In many ways, it’s almost just a tedious head banger, with little to say. Nevertheless, it displays Slaves had a lot more control and input on Take Control with the ability to put random songs and skits onto their second album.
Talking of skits, Gary follows Fuck The Hi-Hat. Who Gary is and why he’s on the album remains a mystery, but nice to meet ya Gary.
People That You Meet is the eleventh track on Take Control and is possibly my favourite on the whole album. An almost monotonous guitar and drum solo almost replicating the droning walking down the street. However, whilst this slightly more subdued than the traditional Slaves style it still manages to maintain the capricious lyrical style. Interestingly, Slaves also claim that Mike D ‘used to be a Beastie Boy but now he works for me’. People That You Meet feels like it shouldn’t work, yet it ends up being almost completely irresistible.
Then comes the interesting Steer Clear, again a macabre tone and a less enthusiastic and anarchic effort. With Ian Drury’s son Baxter appearing on this desperate plea, there’s definitely an influence of Ian Drury evident throughout the morbid, slow electro-beats. It depicts almost a vulnerable side to Slaves, and whilst doesn’t really match the tone of the album it offers a nice release from the heavier tracks featured beforehand,
Then comes the intimidating Cold Hard Floor, with raspy vocals matched by smooth licks of the guitar and a consistent beat throughout its basic Slaves doing what they do best. A very simple track but it somehow manages to sound brilliant and slot perfectly on to Take Control.
STD’s / PHD’s again features the electro-beats challenging the drums and vocals. It’s twisted to its core, entrancing and lacking energy it’s almost haunting. However, an interesting comment on society and life in general accompanied by the almost robotic and mechanical instrumentals adds an interesting degree.
As the simple ‘1, 2, 3, 4’ introduces Angelica, Slaves retain the droning voices but again clever lyrical ability allows it to remain enjoyable whilst not changing the tone too much from the slower tracks on the album. However, a solid guitar solo does demonstrate how gifted the Slave boys are musically as well as crafting their songs.
Finally, slaves bring back their signature energy and anarchic music for the final entrance in Take Control, the absolute mammoth of a track Same Again. It sounds like it could have come straight off Are You Satisfied? It’s classic Slaves at their very best. It’s a protest against the simple life, a cry against the monotonous daily routine so many of us suffer. It closes the album on an inspiring note, a huge rage against the machine that few bands can pull off in the same way Slaves can, and consistently do.
Ultimately, Take Control is the album Laurie and Isaac wanted to make. There are risks in almost every song, whether it’s a new style, new influences or just new ideas it’s all that makes the album utterly enthralling. Take Control really is a work of art, and any of the songs from it will be taken on another level when performed live. Slaves are really onto something with Take Control, an album that shows Slaves can adapt and change when needed to; yet they retain their punk roots and never lose sight of who they are.