Joy as an Act Of Resistance is the second album from genre-defying Bristolian outfit Idles. Well they are genre-defying to me at any rate. Are they punk? Are they some sort of Indie? Are they just some form of rawk? I don’t really know what label applies but if a tsunami of rage, sarcasm, laser focused observation combined with no mean musicianship is any of those, then that’s what they are. They may be subject to the strap-line “The UK’s Best Punk Band”, whatever that means, but try to classify the opening tune Colossus, see what I mean, and then come back and tell me!
Idle’s debut Brutalism was top of many lists of best albums of 2017 and rightly so in my opinion. I think we’ve been waiting for a sincere attack in musical form on people who hate or want to take advantage of other people for a long time. That is what Idles delivered in every note of that album; in every raw, angry, irony-laden word. The album covers the whole spectrum from people who dumb us all down, idiots, racists and homophobes, politicians and right-wingers, a society that doesn’t care and doesn’t want to understand, all the way to mouth breathers in Exeter. The last hints at the grim, sobering humour that underpins their lyrics, delivered with no little vitriol by vocalist Joe Talbot. What is weird is that the whole experience ends up being fundamentally positive and uplifting, because the tunes are just so good.
Joy as an Act Of Resistance is all of that writ large, but with a difference. Brutalism was like taking a shotgun to the world, whereas this new album is much more specific. It’s as if they’ve said, “OK you know what we are angry about, now lets open up and go into some painful detail”. The album cover shows a scene from a fight at a wedding. The ultimate “happy day” wrecked by stereotypical thuggery. You can Google it. It doesn’t end well. Joy as an Act Of Resistance is about railing against all that and also the toxic ideas that we inherit from generation to generation.
The message is that people need to be who they are. The way they deliver it, it becomes intuitive, common sense, similar in a strange way to Sleaford Mods. Joy as an Act Of Resistance confronts racism, sexism, inequality and topics like immigration with a huge mad smile on its face. It also helps that the tunes are great.
I could write pages about these songs, but two typify this to me and signal the broad theme of the album. Coincidentally both have been released as singles ahead of the album.
Album opener Colossus is almost like a heavy prog rock tune with a huge false ending, leading into a punk thrash. Part one is a broadside at the cult of masculinity that still leaves little room for manouvre, even in 2018. The need to conform to some spurious masculine standard is still with us and the pressure of expectation is suffocating. Lines like “They laugh at me when I run, I waste away for fun,” or “I am my father’s son, his shadow weighs a ton,” drive a spike into the establishment instruction manual. The bedrock of all of this is a throbbing, growling guitar bass and drums that grows with the lyrics, just like the pressure, reaching a crescendo and then breaking. What follows is mayhem. Talbot repeating I Don’t Want To Be your Man” over the thrashing guitars.
Samaritans comes at this subject from slightly a different angle, but still aims at the pretence and the “mask of masculinity” that men have to wear – “This is why you never see your father cry!”
Across the whole album the sardonic humour is never far away, in tracks like I’m Scum and Television and delivered right between the eyes in the title Never Fight a Man With a Perm. It’s this that is so uplifting, rising above the pain and angst of the subject matter..
This is one of the most anticipated albums of 2018. It certainly meets that level of expectation. As with Brutalism you get a feeling of exhileration when it’s all over. The best thing to do is play it again.
Idles album ‘Joy as an Act of Resistance’ Will be out on August 31st on Partisan Records.
Idles will embark on an insane tour schedule from September onwards. As part of that tour they will be in the UK. Go and see them.
16 Oct – Bristol, UK – SWX
17 Oct – London, UK – Roundhouse
18 Oct — London, UK – O2 Forum Kentish Town
19 Oct — Manchester, UK – O2 Ritz
20 Oct — Glasgow, UK – O2 ABC
23 Oct — Newcastle, UK – Riverside
24 Oct — Leeds, UK – Leeds University Stylus
25 Oct — Nottingham, UK – Rock City
26 Oct – Birmingham, UK – Institute
27 Oct — Brighton, UK – Concorde 2
29 Oct – Oxford, UK – O2 Academy
Review: Ian Gelling
PR photo credit Tom Ham