It's been a wild six months for everyone. In case you haven't heard there's this whole pandemic thing that is killing a lot of people and some people still aren't considered equal. Fortunately, one of my favorite bands has been able to keep working on music and actually put out two albums during 2020.
The first album they put out this year, "A Beautiful Thing: Idles Live at le Bataclan", is essentially greatest hits and chaos in a bottle. It's a lot of their songs, all of which are fantastic, with all of the energy of a live performance. The YouTube video they released along with it was a real godsend in the early days of the quarantine.
I had kind of thought that would be it for a while and then they announced their next LP Ultra Mono would be coming out at the end of summer. This date has been in my calendar for months. I'm glad it's finally there.
A Little Bit About IDLES
Idles is a band that is difficult to0 pin down. They're kind of a punk band, kind of an indie band, and a little prog-rocky at times. They somewhat seem to pride themselves on making simple music with huge amounts of complexity. Depending on their environment they almost seem to shape shift a little bit. If you watch their live performance on KEXP and compare it to their Tiny Desk performance, they play a couple of the same songs but they manage to fill the room in a way that is suitable to the room.
The one thing you can say about that is that they're ever conscious and not afraid of it. Songs about toxic masculinity, feminism, and loss of child are spread through their albums. They're not afraid to talk about depression and sadness or to take shots at political figures and the problems in European and American societies.
About This Album
Ultra Mono is 100% in line with their previous efforts. It somehow manages to be fast and minimalistic whilst also maintaining its subtle edges and sharp points.
The track "Anxiety" discusses talks about dealing with anxiety and doesn't shy away from the idea that the healthcare systems don't always favor the poor and homeless who are dealing with mental health issues. It's a lot to cram into a flat 3 minutes, but it makes the point and carries on.
"Carcinogenic" has a first verse that really just speaks for itself.
Working people down to the bone on their knees
9-to-5 every day of the week is...
Getting minimum wage, while your boss takes a raise
As he lies through his brand new teeth, he is...
Over-working, working nurses and teachers
Whilst you preach austerity is...
The song itself has a very pop feel while also taking the piss out of it. You could probably overlook the lyrics, but there are breaks that kind of force you into acknowledging them.
For Fans Of
This has always been hard for me to nail down with this band. Their style is so close to so many other bands, but somehow manages to never actually feel like they "fit" in.
The internet suggests some bands, but I'm going to punt here and just say: "give it a go".
The whole album is around 40 minutes. Put it on while you're out for a run or riding a bike or something and just let it play through. If you like it, you'll like it. If you don't, you won't. It's actually pretty simple in this case.
I just happen to REALLY like it.