Over the past few weeks I’ve toiled with the opening line for this review. One of the most recent was “Fuck the Arctic Monkeys”; not out of spite for the Yorkshire lot, but more to do with the social commentary both share and the relevance of the observations from Idles.
So I’ve settled on this, and the rest of the review will explain why:
It’s time to be excited once more by British guitar music.
Idles are a five piece that hail from London, Newport, and Bristol – the latter being the one location which they are more associated with. From here around Britain they have toured incessantly, honed their craft, observed, documented. The end result is their debut album Brutalism.
Musically speaking Idles combine the furious energy of punk, the ice cold beats of post-punk, with touches of industrial to make a frenetic, breathless and hard-hitting collection tracks. What makes this a coherent album of songs, however, is the merging together of the music and the lyrics.
As previously touched on before, the social observation is relevant, all pervasive, and fucking spot on.
‘Mother’ is a solo adaptation for audio of Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen sketch updated for the 21st Century dripped in sarcasm and laden with scorn:
My mother worked 15 hours 5 days a week
My mother worked 16 hours 6 days a week
My mother worked 17 hours 7 days a week
It also contains a salutary message regarding the long-term effects that short-term thinking has on women in society via the education system in Britain:
Sexual violence doesn’t start and end with rape
It starts in our books and behind our school gates
Men are scared women will laugh in their face
Whereas women are scared it’s their lives men will take
In the age of the soundbite and the supposed lack of concentration and attention spans the repetitive sloganeering we see and hear on a daily basis has become a much-maligned tool of the news and politics. So what do Idles do? Use it to great effect to get their point across. Whether it is peer and societal pressure such as found in Well Done (with bonus Mary Berry namecheck) or the destruction and dismantling of the NHS in Divide & Conquer, Idles use the tools of their enemies against them.
For a bit of light relief, though relief with more than a hint of truth, is album closer Slow Savage:
For two years in a row I forgot your birthday
For two years in a row I thought it was Thursday
Maybe it was God
Maybe it was coke
Maybe I’m a drunk
I don’t know
But at least now I remember your birthday
If there isn’t someone who can attest to this, then you’re lying. The delivery, the stereotypical balladeering synths and heartbeat drums, and the words themselves make this an absolute belter of a love song that is as truthful as the shit that clogs the charts up is saccharine.
In conclusion, Brutalism delivers a damning critique of British socio-economic and political attitudes that prevail in Britain in 2017. It’s a lyrical and musical broadside that deserves and NEEDS to be heard far and wide.
Forty years ago the UK needed the Sex Pistols. Today we need Idles in much the same way.