Idles in The Button Factory, Dublin, on Monday 22nd October 2018
If there was ever a band who epitomised John Lydon’s refrain “Anger is an energy”, it’s IDLES. The Bristol quintet channel their aggression into a perfect storm of positivity and inclusion by taking aim at the ills of the world – from racism to sexual violence, from mental health to fake news, from Brexit to class wars, Idles have it covered.
Whilst they claim not to be punk – and we wouldn’t recommend arguing with them – it’s easy to see why many have chosen to stick them in that particular neat media label and bat it away dismissively, rather than consider the fact that like all art, Idles are simply the product of their environment.
If what they have to say disturbs you, it’s because something is rotten in the UK in the same way something was rotten in South Central LA when N.W.A. were burning down the charts. It’s police brutality and so much more, it’s the sound of the working class crying out from under the pressure of the Tory boot choking them out with austerity.
As the refrain in Mother goes, “The best way to scare a Tory is to read and get rich”. It’s a recasting of how the Manic Street Preachers once told us that “Libraries gave us power” on A Design For Life. It is now IDLES’ turn to carry that mantle, and carry it they do, with a frantic panache, but why is this still a story that needs telling? If only the government actually looked after the people.
Singer Joe Talbot leads The Button Factory through a punishing routine with his manifesto for the under-represented, dedicating songs to the NHS and immigrants, whipping the crowd into a biblical moshing frenzy with the unrelenting pace of the material. Most bands start strong and drop a gear when the crowd get too excited, but not IDLES. The only thing they can do is push harder.
They understand the value of time and money, and they refuse to short-change their fans with unnecessary pantomime waffle between songs. If Talbot speaks, it is to convey an important message. When he snarls “I am a feminist” it clearly implies if you aren’t one you should become one quickly, or leave.
This is IDLES’ single greatest asset – their fury is pinpoint and cerebral, their anger is educational, their anger is delivered with love. They are not a band, they are an orchestra for the disaffected on a mission to infiltrate, educate and usurp neo-liberalism with compassion. IDLES are all these things wrapped up with witty refrains. Add in using your guitar for a skipping rope, and a stage invasion that winds up with a fan playing guitar. Talbot even finds the time to smash a watermelon off of his head and do a handstand.
Joy as an act of resistance is not only the title of this band’s latest album, it is their mission statement, and three chords and the truth rarely seemed so good.