Joy as an act of resistance…
When one is first discovering music it is akin to Alice tumbling through Wonderland. At every turn there is something beautiful or intoxicating or exciting. As you get older though, the musical landscape is more like Mordor. Cold, unfamiliar and full of shit. That’s not to say that there isn’t good music out there of course. Courtney Barnett, The Big Moon, Spector etc etc are all fighting the good fight but it is rare to come across something truly visceral and groundbreaking, particularly in guitar music.
Historically, one of the wonderful things about attending festivals was the opportunity to fall in love with a band you had never heard before. However, with the ease of accessing new music and the lack of quality inherent in festival line ups, this phenomenon has become ever rarer.
Earlier this year I attended Bearded Theory festival in Derbyshire and amid the usual festival fare I came across Idles. The Bristol five piece were playing the Saturday afternoon slot to a sizeable crowd, and in almost two decades of regularly attending various festivals I have never seen such a dominant and memorable performance.
The best way to describe Idles is; imagine if you took the most talented five band members from five wildly different bands and forced them to play together against their will. Only then would you be somewhere close to the earth shattering experience that is an Idles live show.
Singer Joe Talbot prowls the stage, stamping his feet and glaring into the crowd while guitarist Mark Bowen, usually wearing nothing but briefs and a fantastic moustache, attacks his guitar before wading into the audience. It is quite the spectacle.
So often though, bands of this ilk find it impossible to translate their incendiary live performances to the studio. Idles have somehow managed to overcome this issue to spin gold on their albums Brutalism and Joy as an Act of Resistance. The former is surely one of the best debut albums of the decade with tracks such as Mother and Stendhal Syndrome perfectly capturing the bands sonic assault and sneering humour.
Legendary singer/songwriter Tom Waits once proclaimed that he likes beautiful melodies telling him terrible things. For Joe Talbot it is quite the opposite. Terrible, crunching melodies speaking of such a beautiful utopia where things like toxic masculinity and xenophobia are banished into the murky past where they belong.
Idles are that rarest of beasts, a band that means something in 2018. Truly means something. Go see them now before they collapse in on themselves like a dying star.