It’s entirely possible that Laurie Vincent and Isaac Holman of the UK’s Slaves took a look at what Sleaford Mods were doing and said, “We could do that — but without the hip hop!” Slaves are a duo that perform with enough bombast to sound like a full band and along with their contemporaries in Sleaford Mods, Royal Blood and Death from Above 1979, people are starting to ask why every other band has so many superfluous members. Clearly, all one needs to pound out a jaw-droppingly catchy testosterone-soaked rock anthem is a guitar and a couple of drums to pound, as Acts of Fear and Love convincingly argues.

The duo wouldn’t look out of place on a street corner banging on cans and yelling at passers-by, but listening to their latest album suggests that a great deal of care and production puts them into an entirely different game. Their third album is their biggest, catchiest and most accomplished to date. While it never loses its blue collar and satisfyingly irreverent sense of humor, it does venture down a popular music path previously unexplored. First single “Cut and Run” features a simple rock ‘n’ roll rhythm guitar riff and boom-bap drum clap while the vocals call to action those who fall victim to sickness (or possibly laziness).

The band could have made a whole album full of elevated pop-rock anthems, but as if they had something to prove, they also include hardcore gems such as “Bugs.” The tempo and level of anger here is in keeping with many of the hardcore bands of days gone by which gives this album an extremely broad appeal. Slaves may appeal to fans of Minor Threat just as easily as to devotees of Sex Pistols or The Wombats. Somewhere on that spectrum, this band has crafted an ambitious and uncompromising punk record.

“Daddy” sounds from the first bar like one of those quiet acoustic songs which will eventually bust out into a crash of loud guitars and roaring vocals. It never does. Instead it’s a nice and elegantly delivered ballad about a bad dad experience. It comes off as personal and meaningful which seems as uncharacteristic of the band as it is effective. And in case you were hoping it would, don’t worry, “Photo Opportunity” busts out into rock destruction.

On their last record, the band asked “Are you Satisfied?” but here they ask nothing of the listener, choosing only to do what they do best and then some. As one might hope for from a brand new Slaves record it redoes elements of the past with straight-ahead fast punk guitar and rapid tempos laced with deliciously slack-jawed British sneers. But it’s clear they’re aiming higher: They want to break into the charts. With a public hungry for British rock both in its homeland and in North America, it’s more than likely that Acts of Fear and Love will pull it off.

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