Idles: Ultra Mono

Idles and Fontaines DC trod similar ground with their early music, enjoyable fist-in-the-air ramshackle punky rock making political statements. The DCs moved on to slicker fare with their most recent release but Idles have not; it’s still gnarly. When it works, it’s great; other times less so.

Expressing working class anger at the state of the world is all well and good, and probably makes for great gigs, but the songs have to support the message. The better songs on here are because of the lyrics, not the music.

For example, we really like Model Village, where singer Joe Talbot rants about a village’s residents: we assume (and if we’re wrong we’re happy to remain so) it’s an extension on the Little Britain sketch about Daffyd, “the only gay in the village”. In the sketch, the villagers don’t care about Daffyd but in the Idles version the opposite is true, and they’re all homophobic and racist. “They ain’t too friendly in the village … He’s not a racist but, in the village”. The chorus is a sing-along one.

We also like the bleakness of Carcinogenic: “You only die once / You’ll never come back / You’re gone when you’re gone / So, love what you can”. It seems to be about the fact that while everything reportedly gives you cancer, the real killer is “Working people down to the bone on their knees”. As with many songs, Idles are far to the left (Model Village references gammon) and so in Carcinogenic: “Where were you when the ship sank? / Probably not queuing for food banks / Probably waving your Union Jack / Probably rallying for new tanks.”
War opens the album with a dense and fast Qotsa-style riff but soon reverts to shouting / preaching. As an exciting opener it’s not bad at all, the descending guitar riff reminding us of the old classic These Boots Are Made For Walking.

The rant against war is genuine but apparently “wa-ching” is the sound of the sword going in; we’d have thought it was more of a squelch. (“Clack-clack, clack-a-clang clang! / That’s the sound of the gun going bang-bang / Tukka-tuk, tuk, tuk, tuk-tukka / That’s the sound of the drone button pusher” continue the lyrics). The “wa-ching” is a bit telling, the band battling between trying to sound serious and wanting to entertain a festival crowd, should such a thing ever again exist.

Grounds is another one that misses a little, a cry for working class solidarity and linking it with BLM – “Saying my race and class ain’t suitable / So I raise my pink fist and say black is beautiful” – yet being approved by white folks is one of the things BLM doesn’t need. Idles could have made a good point here but it’s just clumsy.

The Lover is the song that expresses the band’s main weakness, which is they’re one-trick ponies, likable ones but still one bag of tricks. They apparently wanted to write a wall-of-noise soul song but with swearing (they are punks, after all), but it’s just not all that good. An average song with swearing.

Still, entertaining in parts and good played loud.

Support the band, buy from here.

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