IDLES – Joy as an Act of Resistance review

Secret Meeting score: 82

by Philip Moss and Joseph Purcell

Art is often created in the darkest moments and one of the most liberating experiences as a music fan can be when you find a record that not only reflects your mood or opinions, but that addresses society’s issues head on. Music should allow us to channel our anger, joy and frustration, and provide a forum through which to expel grief or release rage. Movements in music have always reflected the emotions of cross-sections in society: think to the protest music of the 60s, or the backlash against the mundanity that kick-started punk rock in the 70s. Even more recently, Kendrick Lamar’s masterpieces, To Pimp a Butterfly and DAMN, have highlighted the continuing disgraceful treatment of of black Americans.

In so many ways, IDLES have captured the moment in 2018. With the perfectly named, Joy as an Act of Resistance – their follow up to last year’s riotous punch in the mouth, Brutalism – they’ve produced an album of intensity, fun, outrage, anger and witty lyricism. But they’ve also encouraged us to pause for a moment to contemplate and expel the utter disillusionment in which so many people in Britain find themselves feeling today. The average man or woman on the street has no experience of real struggle or suffering – not in comparison to many – but in the current climate the average Briton has the right to be pissed off. IDLES capture this mood perfectly.

Opening track, Colossus is a howling cacophony of fury that’s colossus by name, colossus by nature. It is an extreme attack on the senses – a track more akin to a force of nature as distorted guitar stabs build into a blitzkrieg of Fugazi-inspired fury. It is a cathartic spite-fuelled protest against the concept of masculinity, expectations and all the other pathetic notions that have weighed many down for so many years. Frontman, Joe Talbot, chants – ‘I am my father’s son, his shadow weighs a tonne’, as he frenetically howls, ‘it goes and it goes and it goes’ – addressing the concepts of gender equality and society’s perceptions of what it takes to be a real man. It is an angry whirlwind, and most definitely a contender for best opening track on an album this year.

Danny Nedelko – named after IDLES’ Ukranian friend and Heavy Lungs frontman – is a bombastic, pro-immigration call to arms with a simple, yet thunderous beat, evoking The Ramones at their finest. A song that celebrates the similarities between us all, in the face of the continuous racist media trickle – ‘My blood brother is an immigrant, a beautiful immigrant. He’s made of bones, he’s made of blood, he’s made of flesh, he’s made of love, he’s made of you, he’s made of me – Unity!’ With an urgent, ironically simple pop punk melody, this is a glorious figurative middle finger to the anti-immigration rhetoric. This is IDLES at their best – not shying away from the big issues and the explosive topics, and standing up for the liberalist ideals they believe in.

Musically and melodically, June displays a different side to the band that has not been shown before. After the sensory overload of the first half of the record, this – at the half way point – is exactly what it was crying out for.

Driven by social media, celebrity influence has never been stronger and Television – which incidentally carries one of the catchiest choral refrains on the record – is a cry for individualism, encouraging the listener to avoid following populist cultures – ‘Love yourself! That’s what they do- the bastards make you not want to look like you, so you pay through the nose to look like someone else. Love yourself, love yourself!’ 

Great carries all the traits that Hull’s forgotten snot-punks, The Paddingtons, had. Gram Rock is what you’d imagine Sleaford Mods to sound like if Andrew traded in his laptop at Cash Convertors for a drum kit and a guitar. While Rottweiler is yet more furious glory and brings the record to a fitting conclusion with the departing command from Talbot – ‘Keep going, keep fucking going!’.

Emotive music is rarely born from peace and tranquillity, and dark and uncertain times breed escapism, protest and kick-back. Therefore, while Joy as an Act of Resistance is not a perfect record, and its raw passion does make it a difficult record to consume as whole, IDLES have offered up an authentic take.

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