The Verse’s Jake Francis reviews the Bristol Band Idles’ album ‘Joy as an Act of Resistance’.
Now before we get started, I just want to state loud and clear that I am no music reviewer. Or, for that matter any sort of connoisseur; I like what I like and what I like falls into very niche categories. The fact that I am even trying to attempt an article such as this gives me twitching anxiety. Suddenly, the severe inadequacy I bring to most tasks in my daily life seems minor in comparison; clearly a moron out of his depth. But then again, maybe I should take some credence from Idles themselves on this one…
If someone talked to you, the way you talk to you, I’d put their teeth through, love yourself.
So, in order to avoid a Bristolian ‘scale and polish’, I’ll put my personal angst on hold…for now. Let’s keep this butchering as clean as possible.
The lyrics above belong to the track ‘Television’, one of 12 songs that have been released on Idle’s new album ‘Joy as an act of resistance’. Released in August of this year, the album follows the band’s debut EP, ‘Brutalism’ from 2017; an album that garnered a unanimous return to British Punk without the need for the cliche safety pins. Also, rapidly gaining a fan base for socially charged lyrics and cheeky renditions alike, their latest album does not disappoint in its clean cut but raspy ‘optimism’ (the quotation marks will become clear later on).
With the four singles that anticipated the latest album, ‘Colossus’, ‘Danny Nedelko’, ‘Samaritans’, and ‘Great’ (my personal favourite), it was clear that this latest release would boast a cadre of celebrations and warnings to boot. Tackling the issues of immigration, masculinity, and Brexit is no easy feat for a band in today’s climate – but Idles clearly have a bulk load of chips to remove from our communal shoulders.
Blighty wants her blue passport, not quite sure what the unions for. Burning bridges and closing doors, not sure what she say on the seashore.
Thankfully, these confident tidbits from the album have been joined by a collective of equally energetic and poignant songs; each one doused in biting self-awareness. Tracks like ‘Love Song’ and ‘I’m Scum’ allow their listeners a cathartic experience, squashing the human tendency to float around the eccentric truths of our current times and feelings and replacing them with matter-of-fact statements, rightly or wrongly:
I’m lefty and I’m soft, I’m minimal wage job, I am a mongrel dog, I’m just another cog. I’m Scum, I’m scum.
I f**king love you. I really love you. Look at the card I bought, it says I love you.
As one experiences each track, it becomes evident that Idles are not easily wounded by that common criticism of punk music, the pop-purist wrenching their clothes with an ‘it’s all just noise that sounds the same.’ Yes, Idles do feature the traditional qualities of their genre: gut-wrenching bass, distorted riffs and savage drumbeats – but not one song is remotely similar in it’s aesthetic or message; each of them soaked in gleeful, painfully British, cynicism:
I’m sorry your grandad’s dead. Ah, lovely spread.
Tongues are not always poised in cheeks as the album progresses, however (see, I told you the quotation marks would become clear). The track ‘June’ offers a softer sentiment to the band’s musicianship as they deal with the crushing grief of stillbirth. The teasing buildup of the music paired with Joe’s strained and empathetic lyrics prove that Punk is not all about ‘the filth and the fury’, but about the emotional experience as a whole.
A stillborn but still born, I am a father…pretend, amend, amend, amend.
Although Idles may understandably not be tailored to everyone, the band has an undeniable finger on the pulse of social and personal confrontation. With songs, sometimes literally, spelling out a message of hope and understanding amongst politically charged viewpoints, the album can offer relief in its barebones perspectives. Despite the tone of the music, there are no judgements made here – only an olive branch to education, understanding, and community. In a time where the charts are dominated by sterile dance beats and mild sexism, that is surely a welcome sorbet. It’s rare for an album title to be so apt.
Islam didn’t eat your hamster. Change isn’t a crime. So won’t you take my hand sister? And sing with me in time…Cause we’re all in this together.
For more information, visit their website here: https://www.idlesband.com/