Music Reviews
Joy As An Act Of Resistance

Idles Joy As An Act Of Resistance

(Partisan Records) Rating - 8/10

With Joy As An Act Of Resistance, Idles set down a 12-track manifesto about laying the world to rights in typically determined fashion, their punk DNA not so much threaded through these works as bludgeoned through the plasterboard with a sledgehammer. It is an approach that won them a huge fan-base on their debut record, and here, you can bet it will translate well live, with several tracks laced with wit while providing interesting, affecting and amusing takes on tired songwriting cliches.

Joe Talbot's unrelenting vocal gnarl hits the sweet spot throughout, and he is given full room to set out his lyrical stall by music that is not there to be noticed for changes or dynamic alteration and more to act as the monotonous curtain behind him. More often than not, it helps to drill home the message of his words, and these biting couplets are often thematically engaging and usually give the songs something unique. The first track, Colossus, sets us off on this path nicely, with a repeated refrain (“I am my father's son, and his shadow weighs a tonne”) combined with a claustrophobic backing track build that gives way to a breathless punk coda, ending on a single cymbal choke.

This is about as diverse as actual song dynamics get on this record. What follows are several up-tempo numbers that obey all the punk precepts; no frills bass tone, lo-fi jangling and thrashing guitars, and four to the floor drum tracks that are in a hurry, hanging on to the edge of each bar time wise. At times, Talbot's own vocal tone has more than a passing resemblance to the sneer of one Keith Flint, particularly on I'm Scum.

There is a four-track run on Joy of particular note that happily takes on these tried and tested flavors and makes them work in a way unique to Idles. Danny Nedelko has a straight ahead chorus that gets stuck quickly in the grey cells, with “fear leads to panic, panic leads to pain, pain leads to anger, anger leads to hate” too good a hook line to believe it couldn't have been written by anyone else. Love Song is a sneering take on a conventional expression of love in a song, framed most enjoyably by “I really love you, I really love you, look at the card I bought, it says I love you,” the delivery perfectly weighted simultaneously between nonplussed and knowing.

Perhaps the best song of the record follows in June, the only real change of pace throughout. The discordant landscape is the same, but the BPMs are taken down a notch, the thrash dialed out of the guitars for more subdued delayed effects, the drums pulling back to a sonorous march. It's a sobering and powerful expression of overcoming grief, a track perfectly placed at the heart of the album. Thereafter, Samaritans has a similarly affecting lyric which examines the falsehoods of masculinity; Talbot's “the mask of masculinity, is a mask that's wearing me” is another strong lyric hook that entwines with more plasterboard smashing soundtrack.

Elsewhere, there is dark humor abound - “I'm sorry your granddad's dead, lovely spread” on Gram Rock - and guitars, drums, bass and Talbot collide in a highly enjoyable chaotic mess. On album ending track Rottweiler, he bellows “Keep going! Keep fucking going - fuck em! Smash it, destroy it, burn the house down,” imploring us to join in on the bedlam. Personally, while I enjoy the gung-ho, let's chuck everything at this bit - and if I did, they must have had a great time in the studio on it - where Joy works best is either in the tracks where they take conventional themes and put their wry stamp on them (Love Song / Cry To Me), or go to their darkest and most affected places thematically (June / Samaritans). Replace a couple of the thrashers with one more of each of these and this would be a knockout. As it is, Joy As An Act Of Resistance is shot through with stand-out moments, a great offering that you suspect will well and truly bring the house down when the band hits the road.