IDLES – the Bristolian/Irish band fronted by a Welshman have returned with their fourth studio album, CRAWLER. Usually known for their simmering, or even explosive rage that permeates their tracks, will they have run out of steam and fury this time? Or can this latest album live up to expectations?
Much of the previous work from IDLES has been shaped by the experiences of lead singer, Joe Talbot. Having lost his mother to disease during the making of their first album Brutalism, much of the album is coloured with his raw and visceral grief. Her presence is keenly felt, alongside his struggles with addiction and social issues, yet never quite crossing into Billy Bragg style politics. To labour that point, Talbot has outright stated ‘I’m not the next f***ing Billy Bragg’, although he stated that politics permeates everything he writes.
This latest entry, opens with a prowling, moody, growling track “MTT 420 RR”. Asking constantly, ‘Are you ready for the storm?’ before it hurls you straight into “The Wheel”. You’d be forgiven for thinking it was a track by rock duo Royal Blood, with its grinding bass and guitar rhythm pounding over the top of the track. However, any illusion held is immediately shattered by Joe Talbot’s gravelly voice tearing through this instrumental fog, underlined by the hammering tom-drum rhythm. So as “The Wheel” turns on and on – the track feels just as relentless.
As with previous works – it’s not all hammering, constant fury on Idles’ work. “When the Lights Come On”, is a softer, punkish track. With a contrast of staccato bass picks, sliding high guitars and a drumline that feels mostly like fills strung together, it feels like a throwback to the band Germs. Just don’t tell Talbot because, “For the last time, we’re not f***ing punk!”.
Punk or not though, the same static fuzz leads us to “Crawl!”. Lo-fi and aggressive, there’s some obvious links to the punk and post-punk that Idles keep getting labelled with. However, lyrically you can understand the distance. Whilst the lyrics are socially charged in many instances, they feel far more intimate than the typical anti-establishment jaunt that older (normally British) punk takes you on.
If you ARE looking for something to completely refute the punk label however, and back up my assertion above, listen to lead single “The Beachland Ballroom”. Led by a strumming guitar, and an organ that would be at home on Brighton pier. Talbot has touted this track as ‘the most important on the album’. It tackles a topic that features within many of their other tracks, particularly on previous album Ultra Mono, but rarely features alone, Anxiety.
The relatively minimal track builds and builds to a frantic and coarse crescendo, all the while Talbot’s vocals become more strained, raw and desolate – like the singer’s emotional state. I need to stress at this point – the album is not heavy metal, not screamo and there are no growling, guttural vocals.
If you’re coming to this review as a lover of rock, punk or, and I can’t stress this one enough, grime – the album needs your attention. It possesses an urgency, or more simply put, a massive shake up of the more introverted, socially charged side of music that Idles have been leading the charge for. Frankly, if you’re not in it for the lyrics – come for the fury and thrashing catharsis the album will give you.
Author: Tom, Cardiff Store