Slaves
Velvet Ditch ep
Virgin EMI

Slaves have made their name from fierce and occasionally vicious punk rawk.  Laurie Vincent plays guitars and some bass.  Isaac Holman plays drums.  They both sing.  Since crawling out from under a rock in Kent, about 45 minutes South of London in 2012, they’ve released three ear-splitting long-players, full of aggression, sneering, and surprising tunefulness and sensitivity.  They’ve even had the legendary Mike D of the Beastie Boys produce one of three long players, my favourite, Take Control, from 2016.

For most of 2016 and part of 2017, I blasted the shit out of Take Control, helped, of course, by the fact we lived in the middle of nowhere on top of a mountain Central Tennessee.  I had no neighbours to piss off.  And I suppose that they appreciated it.  But, seriously, I couldn’t get enough of that album.  Last year’s Acts of Fear and Love wasn’t quite as downright dirty as its predecessor, but it certainly carried on the tradition.

So that brings us to Velvet Ditch, which is a 4-song ep. These four tracks are all leftovers from the Acts of Fear and Love sessions, songs that didn’t make the cut for a variety of reasons.  The thing is, though?  They don’t sound like leftovers.  They don’t sound like b-sides.  The tunes are top notch.  They also seem to show a side of Slaves we haven’t quite seen before.

Opener ‘One More Day Won’t Hurt’ is about drugs and the effects of drug abuse on society as a whole, with the main character ultimately wishing to clean up, but concluding that, at this point, literally, one more day won’t hurt.  It’s also pretty classic Slaves.  Slamming drums, angular, jagged, and slashing guitars and Holman shout-singing his lyrics.  But after the second track, ‘It Makes Me Sick,’ they unplug.

The last thing I ever expected was to hear an acoustic guitar on a Slaves release.  And yet, the titular track of the ep is really quite good.  The village Holman is from, Tunbridge Wells, in Kent, aka: The Velvet Ditch.  And so we have the boys stripped back and pondering the comforts and goodness of home.  It would’ve been very easy for this to go pear shape: two punk lads from England take up a bluesy sound to sing about home.  My god, this could’ve been catastrophically bad, like kill-your-fucking-career-dead-in-its-tracks bad.  But it’s not.  In fact, it’s kind of glorious.  It’s a warm, comfortable song.  A song we’ve all heard a thousand times before in a lot of ways, and yet, delivered in Holman’s Kentish snear, we clearly haven’t. It’s also worth noting that ‘the Velvet Ditch’ also refers to Mississippi, where Robert Johnson allegedly once sold his soul to the devil at a crossroads to play guitar.