IDLES are an English post punk band formed in Bristol in 2011 whom burst onto the scene early 2017 with their critically acclaimed debut album, ‘Brutalism‘. I was a big fan of the first record as they captured the thudding visceral bass of post punk & added insightful, satirical & often dark lyrics exploring themes within society such as class, social injustice & masculinity. These were delivered ferociously by lead singer, John Talbot, in a snarly & sneering manner benefiting from his thick gravelly voice (often channelling the spirit of Johnny Rotten).
It was fair to say I was rather excited for the release of this record & it undoubtedly delivers by amplifying the strong characteristics of their 1st record – retaining the tight post punk instrumentation whilst making advancements in the songwriting department. That is not to say that the lyrics were lacking previously but more that they are even wittier & better constructed than before, particularly where they take a huge swipe (or rather a full forced hook) at the socio-political developments in the UK in recent years.
The album begins with the aptly named “Colossus” clocking in at 5mins 40secs which makes for a slower tempo & darker track than on the first record as heavy guitars layer up, building to a crescendo as Talbot bemoans the overbearance of traditional lifestyle rules before it splits into a second pacier punk rock ending. This tumbles neatly into the humorously named “Never Fight a Man with a Perm” which tears apart the kind of idiot muscleheads or “walking thyroids” you see stalking about in the gym.
The darker & heavier approach then starts to lighten before the album clocks in one of its best & catchiest tracks, “Danny Nedelko” – a pro immigration anthem which reels off some of the record’s wisest lyrics such “He’s made of bones, he’s made of blood, He’s made of flesh, he’s made of love, He’s made of you, he’s made of me, Unity!” & the chorus “Fear leads to panic, panic leads to pain. Pain leads to anger, anger leads to hate” all on top of pacey drumming and distorted seering guitars.
Elsewhere on the record, the band continues its cry for unity as it takes aim at Brexit & Leave voters on “Great” which is crammed full with the album’s best lyrics. The band certainly don’t miss with the likes of “Blighty wants his country back, Fifty-inch screen in his cul-de-sac, Whooping charm of the Union Jack, As he cries at the price of a bacon bap” & “Blighty wants her blue passport. Not quite sure what the unions for, Burning bridges and closing doors. Not quite sure what she sees on the seashore”. Whether it is an accurate comparison or not this reminded me of something that Sleaford Mods might make if they made a post punk record.
Of course, the band do challenge other themes throughout the record such as on “Samaritans” which criticises macho standards & promotes open vulnerability. I particularly like the rhythmic drumming & delivery of the verses on this one as Talbot lists off stereotypical male phrases such as “Man up”, “Chin up” & “Grow some balls”. Whilst “Love Song” rips into modern love with a smirk as Talbot shouts “I fucking love you, I really love you, Look at the card I bought, It says I love you”. And “June” which represents the record’s only sombre moment as hypnotic drums create an atmospheric & spacial background.Talbot wails about the loss of his child who was still born passionately repeating “baby shoes for sale, never worn” demonstrating that he is just as adept at delivering touching moments as he is the rage filled cuts.
Overall, this is a terrific follow up to the first record. Whilst it is hardly the most original thing you will hear as it wears its influences on its sleeve such as the Sex Pistols & The Fall, it is full of smart & thoughtful lyrics backed up with interesting & tight instrumentation as well as a cracking front man to boot making it easily this year’s most essential record.
Review by Scott Bingham (Follow him on Twitter at @in_the_riot)
Joy as an Act of Resistance was released on the 31st August 2018 and can be found in all good record stores or on Spotify.
If you want to catch the band live, they are currently touring the US and Canada before returning to the UK and Ireland for the following dates in October,
16 Oct – Bristol, UK – SWX
18 Oct – London, UK – O2 Forum Kentish Town
19 Oct – Manchester, UK – O2 Ritz
20 Oct – Glasgow, UK – O2 ABC
23 Oct – Newcastle, UK – Riverside
24 Oct – Leeds, UK – Leeds University Stylus
25 Oct – Nottingham, UK – Rock City
26 Oct – Birmingham, UK – Institute
27 Oct – Brighton, UK – Concorde 2
29 Oct – Oxford, UK – O2 Academy
Full Worldwide Tour Dates can be found on the band’s website at https://www.idlesband.com/