Wednesday, 29 August 2018

IDLES 'Joy as an Act of Resistance' (ALBUM REVIEW)

One of the most endearing things about IDLES when they cannoned into the collective consciousness with chaotic and utterly brilliant debut album Brutalism was the unashamed Tory-bashing in raucous ode to the working class ‘Mother’. 

And it seems that they have continued with this most noble of pastimes, keeping their boot firmly on the windpipe of the right even as its disturbing growth continues with the follow-up Joy as an Act of Resistance. Thankfully it’s business as usual – and if anything the Bristol five-piece have bulked up and sharpened their knives to further protect our civil liberties with their delicious onslaught of frantic, acerbic punk rock. A case in point is the particularly satisfying ‘Great’, which sees the band taking an axe to Brexit as picture-perfect caricatures of ‘Blighty’ as first a man distraught at the price of a bacon bap and then a woman fixated on her blue passport set up a joyful balled-fist chorus. 

Social commentary has a tendency to squat like a preachy do-gooding elephant on otherwise good music, suffocating musicians who invite it in but then don’t know how to control it. There was never any doubt as to IDLES’ credentials as deep-set foundations in a hurricane climate and their stone-wall defiance of toxic masculinity on ‘Samaritans’ is perfect. The tempo is lowered and the propulsive drum-led track grimly mirrors the grave subject matter, although the chorus of “this is why you never see your father cry” is among the most blistering on the album. By way of  verses, frontman Joe Talbot throws out the worst of macho buzzwords – “man up”, “grow some balls” etc – with barely-disguised contempt in an illustration of the sharp-tongued sarcasm so central to the IDLES sound. 

Often scathing, Talbot’s sardonic sneer pulls down the pants of subjects others may approach with seriousness bordering on respect – ‘I’m Scum’ and ‘Love Song’ – but his artful lyricism also provides moments of delirious humour. With tongue firmly in cheek ‘Never Fight a Man With a Perm’ takes a swipe at a very particular kind of individual; it’s one to hear not read, but any track using “you’re not a man you’re a gland” as an insult – and then stumbling into a chorus which sounds pretty much exactly like the reasoning behind the song’s title – is surely going to be an essential listen. 

High-octane yet thoughtful punk is undoubtedly the band’s calling card, but Joy as an Act of Resistance swerves almost without warning into moments of genuine darkness, haunting counterpoints to the feelgood thrash elsewhere. ‘June’ sees Talbot addressing the death of his daughter, Agatha, with the melancholic yet rousing refrain “Stillborn, but still born”. If anything illustrates the approach of a band whose members practice mindfulness to difficult subjects it’s surely this, putting their money where their mouth is after saying it’s okay for a man to cry.

The brutal honesty and utter rejection of sugar-coating even manifests itself in the title of the breathtaking single which kicked any doubts about IDLES’ staying power into next week, the name of real-life friend of the band ‘Danny Nedelko’. A majestic paean to diversity and yet another gigantic fuck you to narrow-minded chauvinism, it’s no exaggeration to call it one of the best tracks of the year delivered by arguably the country’s most vital band. Little else can match it, but for a concise snapshot of where IDLES are in August 2018 opening track ‘Colossus’ is the dictionary definition – a brooding, menacing intro joyously torpedoes into Black Flag territory while Talbot manically namechecks the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin and Reggie Kray, and shrieks about dancing like he doesn’t care and putting homophobes in coffins. Boys, we’re with you all the way – on both fronts.

Words - Joe Ponting

IDLES official

Joy as an Act of Resistance is out August 31st on Partisan Records

1. Colossus
2. Never Fight a Man With a Perm
3. I’m Scum
4. Danny Nedelko
5. Love Song
6. June
7. Samaritans
8. Television
9. Great
10. Gram Rock
11. Cry To Me
12. Rottweiler

Live in-store dates;

30 Aug UK London, Banquet Records, 9pm
31 Aug UK Bristol, Rough Trade, 3pm
31 Aug UK Bristol, Rough Trade, 7pm
03 Sep UK Portsmouth, Pie and Vinyl, 1pm
03 Sep UK Brighton, Resident, 6.30pm
04 Sep UK London, Rough Trade East, 7pm
05 Sep UK Sheffield, Record Junkee, 1pm
05 Sep UK Nottingham, Rough Trade, 7.30pm
06 Sep UK Leeds, Crash Records, 1pm
06 Sep UK Manchester, FOPP, 5.30pm

07 Sep UK Cardiff, Spiller Records, 7pm