Less than a year ago, Slaves seemed like a project that was already on its last legs. Formed in 2014 around the controversial yet indisputably talented singer Jonny Craig, the band was initially branded as a fresh start for Craig, in music and in life. However, the band’s first two studio albums, devoid of much of the technicality and memorable arrangements of his prior bands Emarosa and Dance Gavin Dance, failed to leave a large impact. Beyond the music, Jonny Craig and the band quickly fell back into controversy and interpersonal drama, and after lead guitarist Alex Lyman became the latest member to depart, the band seemed to announce its breakup last April.
However, Craig is nothing if not stubbornly determined, and so he and bassist Colin Vieira decided to continue on as Slaves, as the only two remaining permanent members. After so much upheaval, the question inevitably became what new Slaves music would even sound like with an almost entirely new lineup. Today, that answer has been given with the new single “I’d Rather See Your Star Explode”, and against all odds, the song is a resounding triumph, and easily the best piece of music Jonny Craig has been involved in since Dance Gavin Dance’s Downtown Battle Mountain II back in 2011. Even more surprising for a Jonny Craig track, the song’s power does not come from intricate technicality, but rather from excellent songwriting across the board. Sounding as if a song from Craig’s time in Emarosa got its composition streamlined and mixed together with R&B influences and some electronic production flourishes, the track soars in all the right ways, and feels like a breath of fresh air after two albums of largely forgettable compositions. While the song isn’t as technical as most old tracks from Emarosa and DGD, it makes up for it by being one of the catchiest tracks Craig has ever recorded. Craig’s vocal melodies are incredibly addictive and memorable throughout, showing a vocal range and stylistic diversity that had rarely been explored to this extent in his past work. If Slaves’ upcoming third album can reach these heights consistently, it may truly mark a comeback for Jonny Craig as a relevant star of the post-hardcore scene.