Sincerity is once again the currency of UK punk; politics has displaced posturing in this new wave of young, English bands spearheaded by the likes of ‘Sleaford Mods’, ‘Fat White Family’ and now, Bristol‘s own ‘IDLES‘.
First full-length effort ‘Brutalism‘, out March 10th, fulfils much of the promise of their earlier material. Post-punk in the original sense, the songs brim with righteous indignation and savage, barked vocals, underpinned by a throbbing rhythm section and crushing riffs – this isn’t the same old three chord stuff; these guys can play.
The venue seems appropriate, now an arts centre, once a church. Lead singer Joe Talbot sermonises on what outrages him about today’s Britain (rather a long list), giving no quarter to government ministers and celebrity chefs alike. You get the impression that he’s saying all this with a wry smile, and there is certainly a strong sense of the absurd running through his lyrics. But don’t mistake this flippancy for insincerity; it’s funny, but it’s not a joke.
This is a band who still have a very strong idea of where they come from. All have been familiar faces in the Bristol indie scene for years now, grafting to get gigs and put records out. ‘Exeter’, Talbot’s heartfelt paean to his hometown, opines how “nothing ever happens” there and, after five years languishing in relative obscurity in the South-West prior to the release of this new album, you can forgive him for thinking that. But now, riding the wave of their breakout record, all those feelings of being trapped and frustrated are let loose and the songs are all the better for it.
Best title of the night goes to ‘Stendhal Syndrome’ (a sort of panic attack upon viewing great art), a song about the line between high and low art, a line the band themselves seem content to straddle.
New single ‘Mother’ is the standout number, bitterness and resentment turned anthemic. Belting out lyrics about overworked mothers and book-shy tories you are utterly convinced by their sincerity. This isn’t punk as window dressing, this is the real deal.
They’re only onstage for about an hour but that seems plenty – being so outraged about everything seems exhausting and they never slow down for a minute. Not ones to bother with the artifice of an encore, they instead come down and join the crowd – a class move and utterly in character.
With the level of airplay and exposure the band are getting at the minute it surely won’t be long before they reach the wider audience they deserve. This is punk that is accomplished, funny and political for all the right reasons and it deserves to be heard live.