Sound — 5
Not to be confused by Jonny Craig's latest post-hardcore/emo project, the UK punk band Slaves actually came before Craig's. Also being quite fresh to the scene, the duo consisting of frontman/guitarist Laurie Vincent and drummer Isaac Holman self-released their debut EP a few years ago, soon leading them to sign with Virgin EMI Records to release their debut album, "Are You Satisfied?," in 2015. Showcasing a minimal punk revival sound, Slaves' debut album would be nominated for a Mercury Award in 2015 for its raw appeal, although other critics have argued against that raw minimalism for being a flat and uninteresting offering.
In their second album, "Take Control," Slaves continue to stoke their minimalist inclinations, though for the second time around, it churns out more misses than hits. Starting off strong at the beginning with the loud garage punk cuts of "Spit It Out," "Hypnotised" and the eponymous song, the two-riff simplicity is quick to turn trite in monotonous slogs like "Play Dead," "Lies," and "People That You Meet." While the riffs in here are a clear step down from the previous album, Vincent tries to throw in some unique guitar moments, like the noisy effect pedals used in "Cold Hard Floor," or the guitar solo in the rock ballad of "Angelica," but they fail to be a saving grace from the tedious songwriting.
In a similar effort to add more flavors to the minimal garage punk style, "Take Control" also shows Slaves trying on other styles. While the new wave effort of "STDs/PHDs" is just as repetitive in its synth riff as most of Vincent's guitar riffs, the post-punk revival style of "Steer Clear" succeeds in both being a significant change in the primary roughness offered in the album, as well as being a more elaborately constructed song. "Consume or Be Consumed" also attempts to be a step above their previous rap-minded single "Cheer Up London," and although they get Beastie Boys' Mike D to feature vocals, the song comes off too entrenched in wanting to emulate a Beastie Boys style, especially in the hook.
Lyrics — 5
Vincent's lyrics in "Take Control" continue with the social criticism first showcased in "Are You Satisfied?," though his criticism, like his riffs, are simple efforts. While the more rapid flow and colorful lyrics of "Consume or Be Consumed" and the progressing arc of apathy in "Cold Hard Floor" make for good offerings, other lyrics fall flat, like the elementary portrayals of affluent plutocrats (in "Rich Man") and a painfully dull process of vocation (in "Take Control"), or the beaten-path observations of being beholden to technology in "Angelica" ("She don't bring much to the party, no / Her eyes are glued to her phone") and the repetitive "Too connected / Disconnected" hook in "Play Dead." And outside of his social critique, Vincent struggles with painting a captivating narrative, heard in the strained stories of "People That You Meet" ("I walked into a sex shop / The lady had a beard / She talked me through the products / That's when it all got weird").
Overall Impression — 5
The mentality towards stoking a raw and minimal garage punk sound is meant to capitalize on an effortless manner, but that simplicity is a fine line to tread between being a successful outcome and a boring one. While an argument could be made of which side Slaves' debut album fell on, their bare-boned and repetitive sophomore effort in "Take Control" is easier to identify as a slump, feeling much more skip-able than essential in its elementary composition.