SXSW Live Shot: Slaves

UK duo makes the Black Keys sound positively operatic

“Finally, some real shit,” growled one sneering Englishman in the audience as he stomped across the British Music Embassy. Even tuning up, Kent-based agro-punk duo Slaves were threatening a riot.

Photo by John Leach

Typical of SXSW Music’s opening night, the converted Latitude 30 was mostly filled with baffled Brits looking for something familiar. In a way, they got it. Every school had that hair-trigger kid, the one that never blinked, and his mate, the unnerving one – the muscle.

That’s the look of Slaves. The energy, however, is pure Sham 69 via Dischord Records. Hair Brylcreemed to perfection, Isaac Holman mock-scolded Laurie Vincent for playing out of tune from behind his stand-up drum kit.

“Who with? The bassist that’s not there?” the guitarist laughed back. “Do we look like we’re a band who cares if we’re in tune?”

Not really. As two pieces go, they make the Black Keys sound positively operatic. Yet what they lack in texture, they bulldoze over with curbstomping tales of paranoia and urban disaffection. A minute or so to make the point, that’s all their unrefined but disciplined thwack-thwack attacks need.

Breakout nosebleeder “Where’s Your Car Debbie” is late-night downtown disaffection, with enough post-club swing to make it an unlikely stomp-along. Blitzkrieg boppers like “Girl Fight” take longer to introduce than play, but are fiendishly memorable. Slaves are as subtle as a Doc Martens to the temple, and the effects will stick with you a lot longer.

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Slaves, SXSW Music 2014, Isaac Holman, Laurie Vincent, Sham 69, Dischord Records, Black Keys

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