When ‘Take Control’ was released in 2016, it was a step in a new direction for Slaves, a mixed bag of skits, punk bangers and even something verging on hip-hop. It was brave, but it was also a bit lopsided, without a clear direction.
With that in mind, it’s comforting to see the trimmed down tracklist of ‘Acts of Fear and Love’, which clocks in at a toned nine tracks, most of which are 3 minutes or under.
Opener ‘The Lives They Wish They Had’ will put long-term fans even more at ease. Short, direct and snarling, it’s a real culmination of everything they’re known for, and it’s bound to blow the roof off when they play it live.
Follow-up and lead single ‘Cut and Run’ is the yin to the opening track’s yang. Leaning more on the comedic streak that Slaves have always had, the music video sees Laurie and Isaac donning sweatbands and gym shorts in order to teach us their prescribed dance moves. So far, so Slaves, but it’s the rest of the album where the duo start wandering into unknown territory, with incredible results.
‘Daddy’ stands out in particular, a slowed down, restrained track that almost takes the form of a ballad, as Isaac laments the life of a man who is ‘Spending like it’s nothing ‘cause he don’t know how to make friends’. It’s stripped back, vulnerable and entirely lacking in the bravado you’d expect. It also works perfectly, clearing breathing room on the album while also holding rapt attention.
‘Chokehold’ returns to the sound Slaves are known for, but the subject matter is once again a left-field choice. A love song to somebody that doesn’t return the feeling, Isaac laments being ‘a side dish, for her main prey’, emotion that we haven’t seen before. This introspective feel continues on ‘Photo Opportunity’, which explores the frustrations of fame and trying to live a normal life. While it might be hard to empathise (nobody has ever stopped us for a photo, not that we’re bitter...) it’s refreshing to see the duo peeling back the mask and baring a bit more of their emotional side.
The Crowning glory of ‘Acts of Fear and Love’ comes right at the end, with the title track. A reflective look at childhood memories, staring out the window and the wisdom of your teachers, it perfectly encapsulates what makes this album so bloody good. Slaves are growing up, and they’re dragging their fans along for the ride. They’ve still got songs that will burst your eardrums and make you want to punch your best mate, but with their third album, they finally feel like a three-dimensional outfit, rather than a one-trick pony.