Idles, as Steve Lamacq of BBC Radio 6 pointed out, are most definitely not The Sleaford Mods yet inevitably it is going to be The Sleaford Mods that Bristol’s Idles are going to get compared to. It’s an easy comparison to make and at a first superficial listen there are similarities between the two and you could easily dismiss the Idles for just being Mods wannabes. So, what are the similarities? The delivery of vocals mainly, the topics, addressing modern day issues of life expectations, the failing NHS and Mary Berry. The rhythm of those vocals has a similarity but it is there that the similarity probably ends. Let’s be honest, these are the times for bands that have something to say, about the state of the world we live in, the way we are allowing some of our liberties to be eroded. Idles, much like the Sleaford Mods, are incredibly articulate, passionate and are able to portray and express these sentiments well.
So why are the Idles being so hyped up by the likes of Radio 6 and the NME amongst others? You will almost definitely have heard the lead single “Well Done” by now and if you think you haven’t you will soon realize that you have. It name checks Mary Berry and has an incredibly catchy ‘Well Done’ which comes across as a list of expectations that society throws at you and the Idles themselves describe this as a song about the widening gap of class divide.
But what of the rest of the album? Is there more to the Idles than one catchy track?
Well, the first thing that is going to surprise you, isn’t the vocals and the lyrics but the fact that this is one exciting, punk, angry, incredible band that play at breakneck speed and will take your breath away. Take opening track “Heel_Heal” It’s a great start to the album, great drums and a single droning guitar before the vocals come in over the top, almost like a call to arms. By the time the full band cracks in, the chances are you are already hooked. It’s one of those songs that progressively gets more intense, more angry but completely engrossing. It is what instantly sets them aside from bands like the Mods for me. This is a great live punk band, this makes you want to go and see them play live.
Lyrically, the track that really stands out is Joseph Talbot’s tribute to this deceased mother. Her struggle with life. The way that she worked so hard and how the government has let her and so many others down. This is not just a tribute though but yet again another exciting and intense punk track. This combination of clear, concise and sloganeering lyrics with what is a great band, is what makes and marks Idles’ debut. Even when the songs dip down there is an intensity to the single guitar and relentless drums. A claustrophobe that is getting ever more present on rocks records. A sign of our times.
Whether you are political yourself it is the songs with the strongest messages that stand out on this album. Idles have a great way with a slogan, some people may just call these choruses but it is sloganeering at its best. “Faith in the City” is a narrative that flows very well. But it is the “Praise the Lord” chorus that will stick out for you. It’s a tale of how certain faith groups can sometimes take advantage of the vulnerable by promising them not only peace with God but other necessities they require as well.
One of my favourite tracks of the album is “1049 Gotha”, it yet again combines great word interplay with a great track. It is catchy but also paints such a picture, you are there with them in their world. It may not always be the best looking outlook but at least you are being acknowledged. What I also like about the Idles is that they rely very heavily upon the rhythm and the organic feel and flow of the drums, vocal melody but also the bass. “Rachel Khoo” is almost addictive in the way that all these elements play out against each other. The bass is the prominent lead here, it’s simple, but provides the rhythmic back drop for the vocals and when the guitar comes in for the chorus it transforms the melody and carries it off into a different realm altogether.
What is making Idles stand out above the crowd is that not only do they have something to say, and this isn’t a just a vocalist and a guy with a laptop, but it’s post punk. At times played furiously fast, but most of all they are exciting. The songs are short, snappy, full of full-frontal guitar riffs, they make you think but they also make you want to dance and mosh down the front. How better to deliver a message than by being bloody good at what you do? The more I listen to this album the more I have been overtaken by just how exciting a band Idles are. They get the heart pumping and the brain thinking, this must be an ingredient for success. Mary Berry will think so.
Brutalism is out 10th March