At risk of raving for paragraphs, suffice it to say that IDLES have blown us away, both on stage and on wax. The music and prose cooked up by the English punk rockers on their new full-length album, Joy as an Act of Resistance, due for release this Friday (August 31), is razor sharp on multiple levels; racing guitar licks, aggressive drum beats, and compelling words that make you want to change the world, and also, throw a TV out the window. Consider this fair warning: once you listen to this record – and soak up the sick sound supplied by Joe Talbot, Adam Devonshire, Mark Bowen, Lee Kiernan, and Jon Beavis – you’re going to be singing and chanting its verses for weeks. Since we’ve been doing exactly that, we think an album this lyrically strong deserves some rapt analysis – so below are (some of) our favorite lines, track by track, and why we love everything happening around them.
“I am my father’s son. His shadow weighs a tonne.” [from “Colossus”]
Not only is this one of those not-fucking-around opening tracks (best freak-out ever at the 4:15 mark) that will make audiophiles hungry to drop the needle, but it’s packed with heavy lyrics like these that speak to key themes on the album. Talbot’s masterful delivery will have you leaning in to figure out his every word, and when you do, the pressures of a traditional male upbringing are clear as day and unashamed.
“Even your haircut is violent!” [from “Never Fight A Man With A Perm”]
In an era of low blows, the world needs punks like IDLES to come up with high-class insults like these. This whole anthem is so witty, it’s hard to even pick favorite lines – and it was a close tie between that one and “He hates me. I like that!” Throw in the funny name drops (Charlie Sheen, Michael Keaton), surprising nod to Nancy Sinatra, raging beat, and even the title, and it’s a song that will forever get you grinning.
“I don’t care about the next James Bond because…we don’t need another murderous tough.” [from “I’m Scum”]
If there’s an award for catchiest, most adrenalizing self-deprecating punk song of the year, please ship the trophy to IDLES. In this addictive insta-hit, Talbot’s honest self-analysis is set to the sound of burly basslines and a barrage of pulse-quickening guitar licks.
“…the C, the O, the M / The M, the U, the N, the I, the T / The Y, the S, the O, the F, the U / The C, the K, the Y, the O, and the U!” [from “Danny Nedelko”]
Listening to Talbot shout out meaningful curses one letter at a time is like watching a baker paint icing flowers on a cake. After spelling the song title and name of their Ukrainian friend, Danny Nedelko (frontman of the band Heavy Lungs), he drives some amazing points home in this pro-immigration jam (and second single released), which is already getting a lot of well-deserved buzz.
“You give me power. You’re like a gun or a knife. Be my wife!” [from “Love Song”]
This is one badass proposal. It’s also one of many lines from “Love Song” that reframe something as clichéd and written-about as romance in a unique way. “It’s not about the sex & sex & sex & sex & sex & sex,” Talbot promises fiercely, “I want to be your best-ever, friend forever, best friend.”
“Baby shoes for sale: never worn.” [from “June”]
You might’ve heard this chilling six-word story often attributed to Ernest Hemingway, but you’ve never heard it like this. Over the dark and somber pulse of “June,” which Talbot penned just days after his daughter’s death (as he recently discussed in an in-depth Rolling Stone interview), the repetition of this line hits you right in the chest.
“The mask of masculinity; it’s a mask that’s wearing me.” [from “Samaritans”]
In this wonderfully blunt rant about masculine ideals, which Talbot described to RS as “toxic,” Talbot’s play on words is brilliant – as is his impression of a male figure commanding him to “‘Grow some balllllls.’”
“If someone talked to you the way you do to you, I’d put their teeth through. Love yourself!” [from “Television”]
See what they’re doing here? It might sound like a standard punk outburst at first listen, but IDLES are actually encouraging us not to be so hard on ourselves. And that’s just one clever piece of a song that progressively calls God “she” and musically drenches you in good vibes.
“Blighty wants his country back, fifty-inch screen in his cul-de-sac.” [from “Great”]
There are so many important political themes throughout this song, we’ll let you enjoy digging them up for yourself – but damn, what a flawless description of an angry old racist.
“I’m sorry your granddad’s dead. Uhhhhhh, lovely spread.” [from “Gram Rock”]
Has anyone ever set what sounds like awkward funeral comments to danceable industrial punk before? TBD, but there’s no question “Gram Rock” will have you thrashing like the cool dudes depicted in the album art – and droll lines like that one make it a fast favorite.
“Loneliness is just a waste of time.” [from “Cry To Me”]
It’s a such simple idea, but the way IDLES deliver it is so musically intense, it really gets your attention. Much like experiencing their live show, you get the feeling that they’re on your side and somehow looking out for you. “When your heartbeat’s pounding like a rabbit in the night…” sings Talbot with a very rock-and-roll “Uh-huh” in between, “…I will hold you and tell you everything’s alright.”
“There’s a shark at my feet that’s been circling for days.” [from “Rottweiler”]
These guys could teach a college course on building suspense in eleven words. The album’s fast-moving closer is a satisfying last chance to let their rhythm section toss you around like the ocean – until you start right over and listen to the whole album again.
You can preorder Joy as an Act of Resistance here and follow IDLES on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates about their current tour. They’ll be playing Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY next month on September 22nd.
Article: Olivia Isenhart