IDLES | Feature

Black Midi Feature Artists IDLES Mercury Prize 2019 Slowthai

IDLES | Feature Artist

Now is a better time than ever to jump on the IDLES bandwagon. They’re a band who are legitimate in their desire to change the world for the better. Although they have been accused of being hokey in a Bono type sensibility (quote Sleaford Mods, and I can 100% see their point of view after extensive listening), but it’s hard to maintain that in the face of the catharsis they present in their brand of rock. Like many great political bands, each song has a clear purpose and message, always present, but never misguided or token.

The band have been together since 2009, releasing several decent EP’s in their early stages, but it is in 2017 where the band broke through with the visceral ‘Brutalism’. The album holds a fleshed-out vision of what they want to be, loud, yet meditative. Joe Talbot’s vocal growls and shouts serve as a perfect medium to vent class anguish, personal struggles and social critique, all through aggressive yet poignant lyrics. The opening scream of guitarist Mark Bowen on ‘Heel/Heal’ serves as a mission statement for the band, before launching into a violent ballad of simple repetition regarding triage nurses. What follows is their epic ‘Well Done’, which is possibly my favourite take on classism since Pulp’s ‘Common People’, and also happens to be the band's biggest single as of 2019. Other highlights from the album include ‘1049 Gotho’ and ‘Mother’, which all make for great motions toward renovating rock.

The intermediary period between albums saw the band sink their teeth into the European touring circuit and cement their name into the new wave of the latter half of the decade's class of rock. Brutalism allegedly took the band 5 years to record, whilst their follow up was recorded within the year of releasing their debut. The quality of work on display is no fluke, the band know what they’re doing and how they want to do it. Joy as an Act of Resistance takes the established formula on Brutalism and opts to create an earthquake. The epic opener ‘Colossus’ behaves in the given manner, slow, gigantic and crushing in its two parts of restraint and release, a pattern the band follow through the album. It is the perfect scene-setter for what is to come. ‘Never Fight a Man with a Perm’ takes on masculinity, a topic IDLES are no stranger in (see ‘Samaritans’), but opt for a comedic critic, resembling Monty Python of sorts, before the visceral chorus.

The album earned the band a Mercury Prize Nomination, alongside contemporary and now friend, Slowthai (see the previous article). They performed the song on the night to which I’d argue was the highlight of the event (next to Black Midi and Slowthai performing with the severed head of Boris Johnson).

The album is full of highlights, with all proposed concepts being more developed and thoughtful than their previous effort. In addition to the heightened personal side of things, the given contrast between the two creates a powerful statement from a band who show no signs of slowing down. The heart and passion placed throughout the 12 tracks are visible from every angle, whether that be the heartbreaking ‘June’, or the sprawling ‘Television’, or simply the highlight of the record, pro-immigration rally cry ‘Danny Nedelko’ (performed here at Glastonbury). From news bias to drug abuse, to love, to loss, and the world back again, JaaAoR gives its mission in its name, finding meaning in a world burning. And that is music worth listening to.

It’s also worth noting about their live album released in late 2019. ‘Live at Le Bataclan’ serves as a perfect statement considering the history of the venue (see here), and simply for the power of their live performances, something to which I can personally testify for as per their 2019 show at Oxford Art Factory. Regardless, every album is worth your time, as the trilogy stands they prove to be powerful, passionate and unrelenting. Touring Australia again in October (hopefully) as apart of Splendour in the Grass, be sure to catch one of their sideshows, they deserve your time.

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