I’ve read a lot about IDLES over the past couple of years. It’s all been very positive stuff, whether in the mainstream media or in blogworld. And yet, until last Christmas, I hadn’t bothered lending them my ears to see what all the fuss was about.
Santa brought me a CD copy of Joy as an Act of Resistance, the band’s second album which was released in August 2018, some eighteen months after their debut. I could no longer ignore an act that had been described as ‘Britain’s most necessary band’ and whose music has been described as the taking the best elements of old-fashioned punk and hardcore and giving them a 21st century twist. Nor could I feign disinterest when a band is prepared to write and record song which address and attack subject matters such as homophobia, racism, Brexit and the right-wing tabloid press so beloved, sales wise, here in the UK.
And having become acquainted with IDLES, I found myself thinking of John Lydon, who once, very memorably screamed that ‘anger is an energy’. If so, then I’d wager that Joe Talbot, lead vocalist and main songwriter with IDLES, is capable of single-handedly powering up a small town.
It took three or four listens to fully appreciate this album. The opening track, Colossus, starts off feeling a bit grandiose and OTT, almost as if it was a parody of the sounds and styles the band had been influenced by. About three-quarters of the way through, it changes tempo and after a Ramones-style ‘1,2,3,4’ count-in, it dazzles into life and, if you happen to be listening via headphones, will do unexpected damage to your hearing.
This blistering tempo, for the most part, continues throughout the album. It is often difficult to make out all that is being sung/shouted above the noise, but there’s certainly enough catchy headline-style sing-along chants to grab any listener’s immediate attention. It’s the repeated listens that show up the more nuanced and telling lyrics, revealing Joy as an Act of Resistance to be a truly remarkable piece of work, with as much humour, pathos and tragedy on display as there is out-and-out anger.
All too often, those on the left, certainly when it comes to music and art, voice their views and opinions when opposing something through a prism of pacifism. Not this lot. And the world, somehow, feels a better place for it.
I’m an old bloke….fat, middle-aged, middle-class and well beyond those whom IDLES would most likely be aiming to influence. I’m also the type who, if lucky enough to snare a ticket for a live show, would stand meekly at the back or the side while the majority of the audience moshed away to the point of exhaustion. The music is tribal, brutal, immediate and compelling. I’m in.