Oh Slaves. I never know what to think of them? Sometimes their brand of anti system, playful punk seems unique and genuine, sometimes it just feels false.
They open with a nostalgic tune for me, their second ever single ‘Hey’. My friend at school used to shout the chorus at me when he was going through his punk phase. Drummer and singer Isaac Holman however, puts his performance to shame. The sound of Issac's voice/drum playing together with the phenomenal sound of Laurie Vincent’s guitar, created this off the chart energy. But, as the final notes of the opener fade out, the false sides fade in.
Isaac takes off his top.
Now, I’ve got nothing against topless performers, especially when they look like Isaac. Yet, at every performance, he seems to get his chest hair out. When I saw them at Alexandra Palace, top off. When I saw them at T in the Park, top off. Big Weekend, Glastonbury… Basically, every photo of him, he seems to have his top off. Am I getting too hung up about a t-shirt? Maybe. But it does illustrate my biggest problem with the band. They’re such calculated performers.
Musically the gig is excellent. The depth of sound is equivalent to Mariana trench levels (that’s pretty deep), making it easy to forget that there are only two people on stage. Laurie is like a mountain goat climbing on amps, drums, monitors; anything he can get his loafers on really. He raps Mike D’s verse on ‘consume or be consumed’, and also has a go on a comically small synth, proving himself to be a talented multi instrumentalist (in the very barest of senses).
But, just as the music is winning me over, just as the energy is pulling me in, false Slaves returns. To introduce their controversial and thought provoking, political single, “Where’s Your Car Debbie”, Holman tells the exact same story that he did two years ago to a half full crowd at Alexandra Palace, during their support slot for Jamie T. I do realise I am being incredibly pedantic, but come on! You can’t be using the same patter for two years straight, as someone’s dad might say: that’s not very rock n roll!
The rest of their chat is good. There’s a funny story about hi hats, Isaac does some great dancing and Gregory Firth’s (no relation to Colin Firth) wallet is safely returned to him, after it somehow ends up onstage. Their old songs are the best, “Cheer up London” and “The Hunter”, as these songs are where they don’t take themselves too seriously. However, I just can’t get on board when legions of daddy’s girls and mummy’s boys are screaming “rich man, I’m not your bitch man”, along with them at the top of their lungs. They’re good fun, sure, but despite their best efforts Slaves have become punk parodies.
Article: Daniel Brashaw
Photography: Alex Hay