Release Date: Aug 31, 2018
Record label: Partisan
The fun punks' second album is an instant classic, one that people will turn to in times of need for years to come There are, improbably, a couple of nods to ’80s romantic drama Dirty Dancing on Bristol punks Idles' instant classic second album 'Joy As An Act Of Resistance'. On the deceptively brooding 'Love Song', which pairs howling guitar lines (that could have been lifted from the start of a horror movie) with compassionate lyrics about the redemptive power of romantic love, frontman Joe Talbot roars, "I carry the watermelon / I wanna be vulnerable", a line partially borrowed from the movie. The record also features a cover of 'Cry To Me', the 1962 Solomon Burke soul song that appears on the soundtrack (and was covered by The Rolling Stones in 1965), here reimagined as a grinding, skeezy industrial shuffle.
On last year's debut album Brutalism, Bristol punks IDLES had a song called 'Mother', dedicated to singer Joe Talbot's recently-deceased parent and all the daily efforts and extended shifts she had to pull as a nurse in the NHS. It was pretty much an encapsulation of all that IDLES stand for: public services, community, heroism in the everyday, agitating Conservatives - and it may well end up becoming their 'Creep', as it is probably their most instantly recognisable and catchy song, but seems so on-the-nose for them. Those ideas, and many more contemporary issues, are what fuels IDLES' landmark second album Joy As An Act Of Resistance, which wrestles with them in vaguely more in-depth ways, but gets the messages across with much more emphasis and enthusiasm than before.
With last year's Brutalism, Bristol, England's IDLES invited us into a world of sharply angled, wryly comic, remarkably humane rock. It's not often in recent times that a band turns up and turns things inside out. IDLES, however, are a very special proposition indeed and they're here to change the world for the better through the inestimable power of punk rock, positivity, and community.
Abrasive, blistering guitars, a hammering rhythm section, and a vocalist with a voice that is rough around every edge. The pieces that IDLES are made of are the traditional building blocks of righteously angry rock music, and forty-odd years of punk, hardcore and post-hardcore history would support that notion. IDLES are quick to point out, though, in "Danny Nedelko," that "Fear leads to panic / Panic leads to pain / Pain leads to anger / Anger leads to hate." This world has no shortage of anger at the moment, but for Talbot and crew, anger is something to be transmuted, not dwelled or reveled in.
The rise of Idles over the past 18 months has not only been a breath of fresh air for the UK's much maligned guitar scene, but also proof perseverance and dexterity can pay off if you work hard enough. Having played well over 200 shows since the release of debut album Brutalism in January of last year, not to mention the years of struggling to make ends meet prior to that combining assorted day jobs with playing in a band. They've more than paid their dues despite recent protestations to the contrary in certain quarters.
Where to start? Well, maybe with Colossus, the shapeshifting sonic reducer that opens Idles' second album: "I am my father's son/his shadow weighs a tonne" intones singer Joe Talbot, before the track erupts, making no excuses, taking even fewer prisoners. Though punk this is most definitely not - the Bristol-based four-piece have honed something more important than that with Joy… They've created an album that manages to combine grief, self-loathing and a realisation that life's better played honest, with a fine-tuned, brutal sound: something like bent sheet metal being hammered straight. Yet it remains listenable, so very listenable, with tales of beloved immigrants, the perils of cocaine, Saturday night street urchins and a grab bag of often hilarious, usually barked lyrical references that can encompass Katy Perry, watermelons or an entire Ernest Hemmingway short story at any given point.
Most standard definitions of community (such as Merriam-Webster's: "people with common interests living in a particular area") fail to reference the sheer import of difference. A self-proclaimed ode to communities and the individuals that forge them, Idles' second album resists that. It's a fist-clenched celebration of the full spectrum of phenomena - inexplicable, crushing and totally joyous - that divides and unites us all.
Near the end of Idles' second album, "Joy as an Act of Resistance" (Partisan), singer Joe Talbot turns Solomon Burke's soul classic "Cry to Me" upside down. He's not calling for a pity party. He wants a rebellion, to bust open the notion of a man's tears as a sign of weakness. Talbot's voice has the declamatory power of a great MC, as if each precisely enunciated syllable were being blasted through a megaphone.