Written for Epigram
The stage is lit green as Kent duo Slaves walk on, reflecting the envy of all those who missed out on tickets for tonight’s sold out show at Bristol’s O2 Academy. The venue is more packed than a tin of sardines for at least a good hour before Isaac Holman and Laurie Vincent begin their thundering set with 2014 single ‘Hey’, spurring their eager audience into frenetic frenzy.
But things haven’t always been this way for the band. ‘Fuck the Hi-Hat’ is prefaced with the tale of playing to a tiny crowd in a nearby pub just four years ago. Tonight, that seems almost unbelievable, but any regret fans now undoubtedly feel for not having been there then is a lesson in the importance of going out to see small gigs and supporting bands in their infancy. It also highlights how far Slaves have come over the last few years, now touring in celebration of this year’s top 10 album Take Control.
Naturally, the set is dominated by this new material. If you went in having never heard a Slaves track, you probably wouldn’t be able to distinguish which songs come from which of their two albums; their sound doesn’t seem to have progressed too much from Are You Satisfied?. But this shouldn’t really be a criticism, particularly considering the quick succession with which their follow up came – a year later, no mean feat. Indeed, the response Take Control tracks receive is proof enough that the notion of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ definitely holds true here. Particular highlights of the set are ‘Consume or Be Consumed’, an attack on the consumerist nature of modern life, as the title suggests, ‘Rich Man’, a critique of the tax-dodging elite, and ‘Hypnotised’, which comes with enough bite in the vocals and enough buzz in the overdriven guitar to rival a shaken up wasps’ nest.
Holman proudly declares “we are what people would call a two-piece band; a duo. There’s quite a few out there but none of them are quite like us”. It would be hard to disagree; there aren’t many bands out there today putting out Slaves’ brand of acerbic punk, particularly with their level of commercial success.
Their main set draws to a close with a trio of growling first album hits: ‘Are You Satisfied?’, ‘Cheer Up London’ and ‘The Hunter’, addressing those who “Don’t like what we do / Because we say what we are thinking / And that shocks and frightens you”. Such people might be out there somewhere, but you wouldn’t think so tonight. The opening bars to final track ‘Spit It Out’ catalyse several waves of crowd surfers, desperate to edge closer to the band – Bristol certainly does like what Slaves do.