Idles: Angular rage from Britain’s most necessary band.
Pop music takes us to some wonderful places in 2018 but, Sleaford Mods aside, doesn’t often reflect the sharp end of austerity, post-referendum Britain. But, 18 months after their acclaimed debut, Brutalism, Idles do that with 11 songs of focused, cathartic rage, rooted in their own experiences. Their vehicle is furious punk rock with post-punk angularity – a molten, modern cross of the Fall, Fugazi and the Angelic Upstarts – and the songs bolt out of the traps with sparks and guitars flying.
Vocalist Joe Talbot, a former carer and recovering alcoholic, tears into subjects from parental expectations and fear of manhood to angry young men in “fishbowl” towns, to the demonisation of the working class, James Bond and the decline of our city centres. And that’s just the first three numbers. It works because the tunes are strong enough to carry a brilliantly, powerfully observed message. Take the song Danny Nedelko, which stands up for the benefits of immigration by personalising it. “My blood brother is an immigrant,” Talbot sings, “a beautiful immigrant … He’s made of flesh, he’s made of love, he’s made of you, he’s made of me.” Great fingers Brexit, while Samaritans takes Talbot’s forensic eye to toxic masculinity, “a mask that’s wearing me”.
But he can also be laugh-out-loud funny. “You look like a walking thyroid / You’re not a man you’re a gland,” he sings at the small-town bully in Never Fight a Man With a Perm: “a Topshop tyrant / Even your haircut’s violent.” Conversely, June addresses the death of Talbot’s daughter at birth, with a version of the poignant, six-word poem often attributed to Ernest Hemingway: “Baby’s shoes. For sale. Never worn.” The band tackle everything from I’m Scum’s Fall rockabilly to soul classic Cry to Me, previously recorded by Solomon Burke and the Rolling Stones. Idles won’t be for everybody: this isn’t good-time, aspirational, radio-friendly pop. But for anyone in need of music that articulates their concerns or helps them to work through their troubles – or anyone who simply appreciates blistering, intelligent punk – they might just be Britain’s most necessary band.
The article appeared originally in theguardian.com.