I first encountered IDLES at All Years Leaving 2017. They headlined the Sunday night. I have vivid memories of Table Scrap’s Tim Mobbs, who was photographing the show, scrambling over the makeshift crowd barrier in a bid to save his camera from the chaos that erupted as soon as they began playing. A few songs in and I was hooked. These guys weren’t just some Bristolians with that one song about Mary Berry.
The elegantly titled Joy As An Act Of Resistance is IDLES’ second full length release, out from 31st August on Partisan Records. It opens with the imposing ‘Colossus’, a five-and-a-half minute statement of intent to rival Refused’s ‘New Noise’. Sighing guitars underscore Joe Talbot’s drawl. The track reaches a dissonant crescendo, before unleashing a blast of the shout-along agit-punk that IDLES fans have been waiting for.
Joy As An Act Of Resistance flirts with hardcore and post punk in equal measure, but at its core is an album of protest music. Guttural backing vocals are woven throughout – the radio-friendly pro-immigration anthem ‘Danny Nedelko’ has two word chorus that’s made for a 2am Snobs crowd to chant along to. It’s shamelessly catchy. But throughout the record, guitarists Mark Bowen and Lee Kiernan are there with a double attack of grinding fuzz and shrill stabs to stop the listener getting too comfortable.
It’s Talbot’s lyrics that take centre stage most of the time. Whether it’s personal or political (and more often than not, it’s both) his trademark wit is ever present. Talbot loves to create characters – in the acerbic ‘Never Fight a Man With a Perm’, he describes an unfortunate acquaintance as, “not a man but a gland… one big neck with sausage hands” and a “Topshop tyrant, even your haircut’s violent; you look like you’re from Love Island.” The face of modern masculinity is a fixation for Talbot – in ‘Colossus’ he sings, “I am my father’s son, his shadow weighs a tonne”, while IDLES’ recent single, ‘Samaritans’, dissects the pressures on young men today before dissolving into a chorus of “I kissed a boy and I liked it.”
IDLES rose to prominence singing that, “the best way to scare a Tory is to read and get rich”, and their socialist battle cry shows no signs of going quiet – as Talbot articulates in Joy As An Act Of Resistance’s jaunty ‘I’m Scum’, “this snowflake’s an avalanche.”
The record isn’t all angry chanting. IDLES offer up an unhinged rendition of Solomon Burke’s 1961 soul hit ‘Cry To Me’, which nestles strangely comfortably amongst their tales of bravado and Brexit. There’s also space for Talbot to be characteristically raw. IDLES debut album, Brutalism, dealt with the death of his mother. Her portrait featured on the artwork, and a very limited run of the records had her ashes encased in the vinyl itself. On its release, Talbot admitted that, “people are a bit freaked out that this was a person. People are terrified of that physical link with death.” Since Brutalism, Talbot and his partner also lost their daughter, Agatha. In ‘June’, Talbot sings, “a stillborn, still born, I am a father” over a dirge of crackling synths.
Joy As An Act Of Resistance is poised to cement IDLES as one of the UK’s great punk bands. There’s a seventy date world tour on the horizon too, coming to the O2 Institute in Birmingham on 26th October, and their fanclub on Facebook numbers over seven thousand and counting. Said fanclub call themselves the AF Gang, mostly talking music, mental health, and the poems of Dylan Thomas. IDLES’ influence is spreading, and it can only be a good thing.
‘Samaritans’ – IDLES
IDLES release Joy As An Act Of Resistance on 31st August, out through Partisan Records. For more on IDLES, including links to online sales, visit www.idlesband.com
IDLES play the O2 Institute in Birmingham on 26th October. For direct gig information, including venue details and online ticket sales, visit www.academymusicgroup.com/o2institutebirmingham/events/1149321/idles-tickets
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