June 18, 2024

Idles – Brutalism

BALLEY RECORDS        10th March 2017

“I want to move into a Bovis home

I’ll make a list of everything I own

I’ll ride into the setting sun

Marching to the beat of someone’s drum.”

Perhaps this Tory government is finally starting to inspire great art from anger. Thatcher’s era created a generation of counterculture and protest (alongside the misery, poverty, broken communities and destroyed lives). A pure blast of nihilism, sarcasm and refusal to conform marks out Idles as a reforming and destroying force – the Shiva of Bristol. There are unavoidable parallels with Sleaford Mods and their dark acerbic vision of the world – both are desperately needed. The Mods have a drum machine, Idles have a honed punk machine. This is polished old school punk – menacing bass, insistent drums, poking guitar and thrashing volumes of sound. Atop it is Joseph Talbot  shouting “Mother” “Fucker”. This is a proper in your face rebellion and very welcome it is, too. He manages political insight and slogans amongst the shouting; “sexual violence doesn’t start and end with rape, it starts in our books and behind our school gates.”

Talbot refuses to conform to expectations:

“Why don’t you get a job”

“Why don’t you like football, even Tarquin likes football”

“Why don’t you like reggae, even Tarquin likes reggae”

“I’d rather bite my nose off, to spite my face”

Not just having to work but having to fit in with any norms – liking football, liking reggae (they are from Bristol, one of the two spiritual homes of British Roots reggae), anything. Faith? Faith pisses them off – Uncle Noel having Jesus in his heart is as craptastic as relying on being an Aquarius. Slagging off anyone who crushes the dreams of youth, this blast refreshes as much as anything since The Clash’s Career Opportunities. “Shepherd? You want to be a shepherd?!”

Still the drums pound and guitars thrash – this is full of anger and energy. It’s not often a debut album makes me grin continuously with pleasure and makes me want to be sweating furiously at the front of a gig, trying to not lose my specs in a crushing wave of people. Divide And Conquer isn’t clever, it’s just threatening, pounding and righteous. Lyrics veer (as those Sleaford folks) into the cryptic personal, referencing things only later scholars with footnotes will uncover, but it’s grist to the mill; that personal vision is so very real and close to home that it becomes universal.

Single, Stendahl Syndrome shows a level of erudition amongst the blart. “Did you see that painting what Francis Bacon did / don’t look nothing like him, the fucking div”. Determined to attack deliberate ignorance as much as deliberate cruelty, the swathe cut by this band is wide. Boredom is an enemy too; “I’ve prayed to Jesus, please; will something fucking happen”. Not everything is political, some is ranting about the world – they croon “I couldn’t dance with another, ‘cos she passed out on your stairs”. But then they surprise with Slow Savage “’cos I’m the worst lover you’ll ever have”; slow, sad, impassioned.

This is as exciting a release as anything I’ve heard in the last year or two. Music needs passion, message, determination and force – Idles overflow with all of these.

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