Monday, July 20, 2015

Music Album Review: Are You Satisfied? by Slaves

"I'm not saying this album is the new "Nevermind" but you know what I am saying? It could be, but time will tell."
Looking at all the Facebook comments about Slaves and the excitement drawn from the hardcore fans of the band I read this statement:

"This album is going to be the biggest album since "Nevermind" by Nirvana".

That's one heck of a statement to make from a very strongly opinionated fan. But the comment made me think. Is this album the biggest rock/alternative album in over twenty years?

The answer is... we'll have to find out. The thing about "Nevermind" by Nirvana is that it was a slow burner. People may forget that. It didn't get released in 1991 and got straight to number one and was considered an instant classic. It took time, and word-of-mouth to spread how good it was.

You want my answer? If you put a gun to my head and demand an answer then the simple answer is "no". I don't think this album, or this band, are going to be even an etch of the legendary status that "Nevermind" and Nirvana have set. But what we have here is an exteremely solid garage punk band who have released their debut album and it packs some fantastic welly.

Am I mentioning "Nevermind" too much in this review? If you think so stop reading now. I am comparing the two albums and for good reason. The truth is there are many similarities to "Nevermind" in this album, "Are You Satisfied?". The first thing I'd say is the first track. Both "The Hunter", by Slaves, and "Smells Like Teen Spirit" are token tracks for both bands. They're also the major single off both albums. They are both brash, catchy, and "in your face" songs that are hard to get out of your head when you hear them for the first few times. They also both have many lyrical weaknesses yet surpass those weaknesses with musical ability. If you're going to take a dig at me for saying that "Smells Like Teen Spirit" isn't lyrically the best song, well, Kurt Cobain did write many many better songs, that's what I mean.

The second track, "Cheer Up London", is only slightly comparable to "In Bloom" by Nirvana. Once again they are both singles, and both contain a very silly side to both bands, video wise especially. The differences stop there mind. "Cheer Up London" is a bizarre track; it's incredibly happy and bouncy to listen to, but the lyrics take lots of digs at London as a city and the citizens that live in it. Still, it's a great highlight in the album because the song, once again, gets stuck in your head for days.

The main thing to compare about this album when it comes to the legendary "Nevermind" album is that the pacing is very similar. We have ups and downs throughout, the tracks range from heavy to silly to calm to punky to heavy again, and it finishes off slightly calmer than its lowest ebb. But so did "Nevermind". And another thing is that like "Nevermind", every single track on this album is listenable, and different. No two songs sound the same, which is actually more difficult than it sounds at times. You want to show variety yet show similarity in your music so not to lose your core listeners. I think Slaves do that to great effect here, in a similar vein to Nirvana did back in the day.

I had a look at some earlier reviews for the album before its release. A lot of them are negative. The people who reviewed the album clearly don't understand what Slaves are about. They tag the "punk" genre on them, assume that they're a rebellious duo of rabbling young men trying to make a massive "fuck you" statement at the country and possibly, the world. That really isn't what Slaves are about.

Sure, throughout the album they do make political statements and show some frustration with certain topics of discussion. Hell, it's in the genre. But if you genuinely listen to them, watch them in interviews and watch their music videos, you can clearly see they are just having a laugh, they seem like really good blokes. They have the sound of a punk rock band but gone are the snarls, the anger, the "we're trying to change the world for the better" type of attitude. Their body language don't give that impression away. They seem to be fans of punk rather than want to be punks themselves. I remember seeing them on Soccer AM and they were talking about how they can tell the differences between all the branded bottles of spring water. That's not punk rock. That's the fucking opposite!

But they are a genuinely fun band. They know how to play music. They know how to pull off punk rock... in style. Times have changed; this isn't the late 70's when the Sex Pistols wanted to piss off as many royalists and snobby British people as they could. This is 2015, most of the very serious problems have gone, yet there are issues in our lives today, that this band try to address. Are they good at addressing them? Not really. But they do sound fantastic and create very catchy punk rock tracks. Just listen to "Do Something" - my favourite 'non-single' on the album. It's lyrically poor in a certain way, comparing life to... a traffic jam? It's a bit bizarre but that amazingly dirty and dirgy guitar and the simply effective chorus make it one of the stand out tracks on the album. This band can play good, catchy yet old school low quality (intentionally, in style) music that's just so much fun to listen.

And you know what? That's enough for me. I don't want to give the impression that this is a band that are like no other, that they are going to be the pioneers of punk rock for the next decade and beyond. But rock music in general is quite stale at the moment. And they are shaking the scenery around enough to make the picture around us a little more colourful. They're a fun, catchy, energetic garage punk rock that are having fun and want everyone around them to have fun as well.

To wrap up, this album isn't perfect. As I said earlier in the review and I want to emphasise, this album may not be the new "Nevermind". But the great thing is, it could be. Frankly "Nevermind" wasn't a perfect album either, but it was released at the right place at the right time and its consistency throughout the album in quality is what made it the album it is today. Every track is great but not perfect. And Slaves have created in effect, a very similar album, in a different genre, to "Nevermind" by Nirvana.

Slaves ask us, "Are You Satisfied?" - the answer is yes. More please!

Rating: ****1/2 stars
Stand out tracks: "The Hunter", "Cheer Up London", "Do Something"

Here's the music video for the first single, "The Hunter":