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Idles - Profile

  by Adrian Huggins

published: 13 / 10 / 2018

Idles - Profile


Adrian Huggins reflects on ‘Joy As An Act Of Resistance’, the triumphant second album from Idles, one of the most important current UK bands.

Where do I start with Idles? One of the most hyped and talked about UK bands of the last few years. Even more so at the moment, with their 2nd album ‘Joy As An Act Of Resistance’ having just dropped. The band just made their live TV debut on BBC’s ‘Later With Jools Holland’, where they split opinions with a characteristically energetic performance, and no doubt ruined a stage managers evening when they jumped on Jools’ piano. It’s safe to say there is somewhat of a buzz about the band. In the last 18-20 months they’ve pretty much toured all over the world, conquered most of it and even supported the Foo Fighters at the O2 Arena (thanks in part to a cake emblazoned with a scantily clad bass player, if the rumours are to be believed). I’m giving the ending away a little soon here, but I think they’ve certainly justified the hype. Now there’s probably one of two reasons you’re here reading this: A) You keep hearing about Idles and want to know what they are all about – if so, they’re great, trust me, go and listen. B) You’re one of the many dedicated Idles fans and part of the infamous ‘AF Gang’, in which case you’re probably going to be looking to see what else is said about them and will be checking my writing very carefully for any mistakes or misinformation – if so, they’re great, you already know this, go and listen. In case you’ve not heard of Idles, they’re a band from Bristol, they’d fall into the Indie-punk, post-punk and new wave categories, although they would probably shun most of those labels. The five-piece are renowned and loved for their furious and energetic live shows, viscerally delivered lyrics and spreading positivity and love wherever they go – but not in a hippy, let’s all sit round with acoustic guitars way, more of a yelled at high volume while hanging from a ceiling, kind of way. And Steve Lamacq off the radio f*cking loves them. Their music is high intensity. It features thought provoking and ferociously witty lyrics from frontman Joe Talbot, a cacophony of frantic guitar sounds courtesy of Messrs Lee Kiernan and Mark Bowen, and probably the best rhythm section around, with driving bass from Adam ‘Dev’ Devonshire and the most solid drumming you’ll hear on an album this year thanks to Jon Beavis. They are a seriously solid band who might not be reinventing the wheel musically, but they’re giving it one of the fastest and furious rides it’s had in a long while. I first became aware of Idles early in 2017. The band had already been around a good few years before that, having formed back in 2011, releasing a handful of EP’s. 2017 saw the band building up to the release of their debut album, ‘Brutalism’. They were getting some great coverage on BBC 6 Music and in the music press. This, coupled with their incredible uncompromising live shows and incredibly honest and very entertaining interviews, meant that people were really starting to take notice of the band. Around March 2017, my own band were lucky enough to support Idles. Two days before, Idles had played SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas. I won’t lie, we were not expecting them to be that bothered about playing in Newcastle on a very rainy Tuesday night, having played one of the most important and influential festivals in the world barely 48 hours prior. Upon entering the venue with our gear, my band put our equipment down and frontman Joe Talbot jumped down from the stage where they were sound checking: “Hi guys, I’m Joe, how you all doing? Thanks for playing tonight, we won’t be much longer then you lot can get all set up.” This might not sound like much but this typifies their outlook. They’re part of the music scene, they’re hands on and involved in it. They’re a band that have done this for a while and have all been involved in different ways – promoting gigs, other bands, running venues. They’re a proper band that care about what they do, they obviously love other music and are very vocal about other bands and other music, not just their own. It’s safe to say Idles are band of their time; a time in Britain where we seem to be increasingly divided and polarised as a population. A place where people are suffering due to austerity, budget cuts, unemployment. Lots people also seem to be losing sight of what is and isn’t acceptable. To many people, it feels like the current political climate that has been brewing over the last few years has made this somehow acceptable, or has possibly encouraged it. ‘Great’ faces and embraces all of these ridiculous notions of ‘getting one’s country back’. They wonderfully highlight the absurdity of people’s arguments but they also never cease to promote understanding, empathy and dialogue. ‘Danny Nedelko’ is a wondrous celebration of diversity and condemnation of the fear mongering we’ve experienced in recent years: “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! Fear leads to panic, panic leads to pain, pain leads to anger, anger leads to hate.” It’s great stuff and features gang led sing along parts throughout, it’s made to be played and experienced live but still works on record. They really spoke out about a lot of issues. They gave an angry and often anecdotal response to problems many people face and feel powerless to change. ‘JAAAOR’ still has the relatability but there is more of a positive, inwardly looking, and empowering feel to it. People are really embracing this; the buzz around Idles is bigger than just the band, which is why I feel they are so important right now. ‘Samaritans’ delves into the idea of ‘toxic masculinity’, listing the sorts of phrases that males are constantly told as they grow up, leading many males to be, or feel like they have to be, emotionally stunted, stone faced and ultimately repressed; “Man up, sit down, chin up, pipe down, socks up, don’t cry, drink up, just lie.” To kick off a mosh pit inducing middle 8 with the phrase “I kissed a boy and I liked it” is just sublime. It’s the most heartfelt, warm and enlightened idea. This is not music that you sit in your room and gently agree to. It’s music that you jump around to and shout along with other like-minded people. ‘Television’ highlights the way that, within mainstream popular culture, we’re constantly being sold an idea of what perfection is and how we should adhere to it. How this is such an unhealthy thing and that you should learn to love yourself: “If someone talked to you, the way you do to you, I’d put their teeth through, love yourself”. It’s empowering and a testament to learning to be comfortable with who you are. Talbot means what he says, or sings, or shouts, and he does it with wit, honesty and bellowed eloquence. The writing is as humorous as it is honest, who wouldn’t love a man that sings “You look like a walking thyroid, you're not a man, you're a gland” in ‘Never Fight A Man With A Perm’. The most honest and emotionally charged song on the album lies in the middle of it and is a sombre break from the chaos. ‘June’ is one of the most heartbreaking songs I’ve ever heard. I hand on heart struggle to listen to it. I feel I’m doing the song and subject matter an injustice by even attempting to write about it as it is so beautifully and candidly written. It is with this honesty and willingness to share such personal experiences that is one of the true strengths and appeal of Idles. There are not many bands around that really communicate, engage and raise awareness like Idles. Part of this is down to how current the writing is. I would say many bands play it safe for fear of their subject matter being out of date by the time it’s released. Idles have bothered themselves to actually say something, to put a stamp on the here and now. They are so open and inviting that as a band they genuinely connect with people and people connect with them. In years to come people will still talk about this album and about these times we live in. All Is Love.

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Idles - Profile

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