Album review: IDLES - Brutalism
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In 2017’s post-truth, anti-intellectual age of despair even the musical landscape is manipulated to resemble a sedate, safe-space of unchallenging, status quo preserving blandness.
Into this void several acts with something to say are creating a new sound of rebellion – Slaves, Sleaford Mods, Fat White Family – and Bristol rabble-rousers Idles have now released 2017s perfect protest record in Brutalism.
This is exactly what rock music needs to sound like in 2017. Brutalism combines the vital power of punk with no wave guitar noise and delivers its poigniant messages with humour, direct but never preachy.
Treading the boards of the toilet circuit for some time now this debut is a condensed version of the band's early promise and one that cements Idles as the most exciting rock band in the UK right now.
Brutalism can equally sweep you up in its righteous anger or allow you to sit and ponder the issues being attacked.
Sure on the surface this is pure, snotty punk but Idles also play with the tropes of the genre with walls of noise, unexpected time signatures and the occasional moment of beauty.
What sets Brutalism apart is the straight-talking but still poetic lyrics delivered with a strange charisma by snarling, confrontational front-man Joe Talbot who rips into everything from sexual violence and Tory elitism to ignorance and societal expectations in a world where aspiration is being killed.
What tracks like ‘Mother’, ‘Well Done’ and ‘Stendahl Syndrome’ show is that bestowing political anger doesn’t require a loss of artistry, humour or human feeling (much of this anger is filtered through the loss of Talbot’s mother). Idles deliver a message as direct as Sleaford Mods but in a way that is as entertaining as it is finger-pointing.
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In fact, much of the poetry here is sheer genius. Lines such as “The best way to scare a Tory is to read and get rich” from ‘Mother’ or “Ignorance is bliss, yeah. I’m not pleased, you spread your opinions like a wretched disease,” from ‘Stendahl Syndrome’ capture everything that needs to be said about the modern world, about both the political and the personal.
In one fell swoop the band sum-up the issue of sexual violence perfectly on ‘Mother’ barking: “Sexual violence doesn’t start and end with rape, it starts in our books and behind our school gates. Men are scared that women will laugh in their face, whereas women are scared that it’s their lives that we’ll take.”
In amidst the fun-poking, Idles have an exceptional ability to cut to the centre of the issues.
Obviously, Brutalism is not offering anything new, surging political punk has been done before but rarely with this much humour and bite.
Musically, the album is a collection of fuzz, noise and riffs while being heavy manages to remain restrained never taking it to the next level. All in all, this adds to the underlying threat of the album, the sense of forboding which it brings to anyone and anything it has in its sights.
Brutalism will make you want to fight, think and ultimate make things better when the anger subsides. This is the best rock record of 2017 and is completely vital listening.