Album review: IDLES – Joy as an Act of Resistance

The Bristol based five piece IDLES return to follow up 2017’s critically acclaimed Brutalism, with their new album Joy as an Act of Resistance. Have they been able to build on the emotional intensity of their debut album? Read on to find out…

For those not familiar with the previous album Brutalism, IDLES are a punk rock band from Bristol formed of five thirty-somethings with plenty of life experience between them. Lead singer Joe Talbot has certainly had his fair shares of lows, with his mother passing after a long illness prior to release of the band’s debut and his daughter being born stillborn in the gap between albums. These experiences have clearly contributed to the bands work and it’s obvious the process of writing and performing has provided an emotional outlet for him.

These experiences come flooding out in the song June, ‘Dreams can be so cruel sometimes / I swear I kissed your crying eyes.’ The honesty in these lyrics show the emotional maturity of Talbot, refusing to ignore or forget the pain of his lost child. One of the commendable things about this album is that blend of catchy, driven music and the raw emotionality of the lyrics. There are more levels to Joy though as we find with the opening three tracks of the album. The track “Colossus” opens with its lament of wasted time, ‘I was done in on the weekend / The weekend lasted twenty years.’ It’s this self-deprecation which endears Talbot to the listener and allows him to go on to attack xenophobia, homophobia and lad culture on the rest of Joy.

The track “Never Fight a Man With a Perm” confronts the bland copy and paste nature of lad culture in our modern world though lines such as ‘You are a Topshop tyrant / Even your haircut’s violent / You look like you’re from Love Island / You stood and the room went silent. He even uses comedy to batter the all-important reputation of what he sees as over-preened, aggressive men ‘You’re not a man, you’re a gland / You’re one big neck with sausage hands.’  It’s all very current and seems to hit the nail on the head by cutting to the very core of those who can’t laugh at themselves.

It’s this mix of aggressive attacks on the shallowness of modern men which makes the lyrics of “Samaritans” so powerful. This is a full-on assault on the nature of masculinity opening with the catchy bass guitar pacing the barked orders from Talbot ‘Man up/ Sit down/ Chin up/ Pipe down/ Socks up/ Don’t cry/ Drink up/ Just lie.’ You can imagine this being belted out by the whole crowd in a festival tent quite easily. It’s an obvious example of the pacy bass line to many of the songs which keeps the album moving along and stops the important themes from being bogged down.

All these themes and interesting musical choices come to the fore with the track “Danny Nedelko”, one of the best on the album. Again, there are the lyrics of a real festival anthem: ‘Fear leads to panic, panic leads to pain / pain leads to anger, anger leads to hate’, talking about the causes of xenophobia. All the while keeping a toe tapping beat with the lead guitar and snare drum.

The contemporary nature of the lyrics and the constant unrelenting beat of this album have made for a special piece of work and certainly a great follow up to Brutalism. This will surely go down as one of the albums of the year and hopefully brings a whole lot more people into contact with the unquestionable genius of Talbot’s song writing skills. It’s worth investigating for yourself even if punk rock isn’t your normal forte, so why not pop into your local Richer Sounds store to have a listen on a great hi-fi system?





Author: Robert, Brighton store