PHOTO CREDIT: Tess Janssen Photography
The track, Mercedes Marxist, is available via:
7th May, 2019
WHEN looking at a band I have followed...
PHOTO CREDIT: Charlotte Patmore
for quite a while now, I have to approach them from different angles. It is not enough just to think about IDLES in the way I used to: a lot has happened in the camp since then so I need to address that. I will discuss Punk/Post-Punk bands in this day and age and how they are speaking loud; how the rawness produced actually does lift you and provides much-needed catharsis; a band who are unafraid to address more difficult themes and the bond that you hear with IDLES; a little about their gigs/live set and where they might head from here. Let us consider IDLES and their new single, Mercedes Marxist. Many are hailing it a ‘return’ but, to be fair, the lads have not really gone anywhere. The reverberations and echoes of their current album, Joy as an Act of Resistance, are still being felt and it is great that they have a single out. I am not sure whether this is the first sign of a third album and what they have planned for the coming months. Right now, there are a band of Post-Punk/heavier bands that are documenting what is happening in the world. I am not sure whether one can view Fat White Family and Sleaford Mods purely as Post-Punk but they definitely have elements of that in their music. There is Cabbage and Shame; a little bit from Fontaines D.C. and Squid. It is a time where acts/bands are providing something a little more direct and charged; less reliant on hooks and big choruses. I think, although Punk died and we cannot really revive that, the new generation are producing their own example. What I love about IDLES is how they can deliver this very physical and primal music but it does not overwhelm you. Is there anyone out there who has the same sort of appeal and quality as IDLES right now? They are definitely among the very best bands of the moment and there are few who can touch them.
PHOTO CREDIT: Charlotte Patmore
I will stay on Post-Punk because there is a real need for it at the moment. Consider one of the reasons why Punk sprung up back in the 1970s. There was a feeling that music was a bit slight and bigger themes were not being tackled; there was corruption and people were struggling – these artists, such as Sex Pistols and The Clash, articulated the frustration of their generation. Right now, there is all this aggression and fear in the air and IDLES are one of the bands who manage to transform a common feeling into their own, unique sound. It is great that there are other bands that are producing the same sort of feeling as IDLES. Although bands like Fat White Family and Sleaford Mods have been taking digs at IDLES – claiming they are a bit middle-class and not genuine – it seems like jealousy and desperate slots from weaker alternatives. In any case, the Post-Punk wave that is coming out right now is electric and exciting. I cannot wait to see how this develops and whether other bands will come through. I do love IDLES but Fontaines D.C. are other great band that are worth watching. Maybe the style of Punk has changed since the 1970s but, at the core, is this need for change and an articulation of a bubbling anger. Many of us are confused and worried about the world – the likes of IDLES are perfect when it comes to putting that on the page. Of course, the band is much more than that. They look at society and those kind of people that warrant ridicule, investigation and a sharp tongue! In some ways, Post-Punk is a broader genre than its forefather and the musical palette is richer and deeper. That is not to take anything away from the originators but I do think there is more movement and flexibility in Post-Punk. IDLES are leading the charge and providing the world with something much-needed and fantastic. In a music world where there is not a lot of uplift, is Post-Punk doing what Pop music used to back in the 1980s and 1990s?
Of course, Pop was influential and big before the 1980s but it has been a long time since we have heard any decent, truly memorable Pop music that can last for decades. I do think that Pop music, right now, is doing its own thing and not really concerned with providing joy and excitement. There are some big Pop songs and those that make you feel better but, more and more, there are minor-key songs and something moodier. It is very annoying that we have to experience Pop that lacks real flair and happiness. Strangely, it seems like Post-Punk is replacing Pop in many ways. Maybe it would be a stretch to think that Post-Punk is happy and bright but the sheer energy and power that radiates from bands in this genre does give you a boost and feeling or release. I guess that is what we need at the moment. Whereas so many artists are keen to be anxious and release music that is pretty sad, IDLES and their peers are going further and actually giving us all this huge sense of unburden. They do tackle important themes in their music but the way they deliver the material is fantastically forceful and exhilarating. You cannot listen to their music without getting involved and feeling like a weight has been lifted. I guess Punk didn’t burn that long back in the 1970s and 1980s but, when it did, it seemed to galvanise the youth and channelled a lot of their stress into music that provided this rush and explosion. Right now, the world is in a pretty mixed and messed-up place so, naturally, we do need music that can allow us to vent and make us feel better. Even if the subjects being addressed are not that positive and redemptive, there is something affirmative one gets from listening to IDLES and their ilk. IDLES are especially skilled at balancing deeper themes and serious subject matter with music that gives this escapism. I can listen to a song of theirs and, by singing along or moving, actually see troubles fading away.
PHOTO CREDIT: Emma Swann
I don’t know if they are thinking of marketing this as a get fit video but the ‘IDLES workout’ is one that affects the heart, body and brain. You can get all your daily exercise, dance around and actually listen to something very important and imaginative at the same time. Maybe I am straying off the track a bit here but it seems like Post-Punk and bands like IDLES are actually helping with our physical and mental-health. They are a fantastic band that I have been following since their debut album, Brutalism, back in 2017. They have taken leaps since then and now, in 2019, they look set to release their third album – or there is suggestion that an album could arrive very soon. They have this way of writing where they can bring in everyday characters that we all know and have experienced but give it their own tinge and angle. The band has written about mental illness and toxic masculinity. It might seem like they are pretty down and depressive but they never address these subjects in a very dour and sleepy manner. One of the reasons I think modern music is in trouble is because artists are too serious and they have lost the sense of fun. It is great writing about what you experience but, when you have so many doing this and it is very morbid, it does get to you. IDLES stray away from this and, when they address harder topics, there is always this energy and rush that makes the song stick in your head. I would encourage more artists to do this because, actually, it is much more memorable and affecting. I should leave this theme where it is but I do think that we all need to feel better and embrace music that has catharsis. One gets this with IDLES and, when listening to their songs, you actually learn something! Is the acknowledgement of something quite troubled and tough something that will put people off, perhaps?
PHOTO CREDIT: @lindsaymelbo
I do think that it is quite hard to write about things like mental-health and toxic masculinity and make the music quite rounded and positive. We do not want to dampen the meaning and message being portrayed but we do also not want people to feel depressed and exhausted. IDLES have that passion and energy that means the songs definitely evoke response and do not get you down. You can hear what is being said and appreciate it – never feeling overwhelmed and pummelled by it at the same time. It is a skill to pull off but it returns to what I was saying earlier: Pop music and a lot of the mainstream and giving us a lot of depressive sounds and not really lifting us up. IDLES are a band who can captivate and unite people but they never shy away from the tougher elements of society. They can talk about mental-health and struggles from a very personal and real place. Their lead, Joe Talbot, has experienced mental illness struggles and personal tragedy. He has gone through a lot and can bring some of this to the music. The band looks out at the wider world and tackles political issues. We have this sense that IDLES are trying to change the world but they never preach and force it down our throats. You do get a sense that IDLES can go on for years and literally help affect change. It is only recently that a lot of artists have started to talk about topics like mental illness and anxieties. So many do it in a very dour and flat way and I do think that this can put the listener off. IDLES are masterful regarding balancing seriousness and humour; making sure their music sparks but there is compassion at heart. They have the intelligence and wisdom to balance all considerations and ensure the emotions in their songs are pure and balanced. Long may the kings of Post-Punk reign and inspire – so many people are enriched and inspired by everything they do. I love them and was very keen to tackle their current single.
PHOTO CREDIT: Pooneh Ghana
I have never seen an IDLES gig but I have read plenty of reviews and seen the photographic proof! These boys don’t mess around and, when they are in the crucible of live performance, there is this connection with the audience that is primal and almost spiritual. They put on these incredible shows that are filled with energy and memorable moments. Led by Talbot, IDLES give these huge live shows that get into the blood and live long in the memory. I do not know how they have the energy to keep going as strong as they are (if that makes sense?!). We are being told that venues are closing and we can see evidence of that. I think it is a shame that bands like IDLES might struggle in the future because of the dwindling live scene. I have not gone to a lot of gigs lately because I am not sure whether it’ll be worth it and whether it will be memorable. IDLES are top of my list when it comes to live gigs because every review they receive is filled with love and recommendation. It seems like the stage is their crucible and pulpit. Their faithful acolytes and followers throw love the way of IDLES and, in return, the band deliver these incredible shows. I will finish with this but it seems like the calendar of IDLES is pretty packed for the foreseeable future. I have covered aspects of IDLES’ music and how they stand out from the crowd. I do hope that the band get time to chill and relax because they have hardly paused for breath over the last few months. I know Talbot has a young child and the boys have busy lives. One can tell the guys have no intention on stopping because of how they are received. Their gigs are selling out and they are providing something vitally important to their fans. I have discussed how there is catharsis and education in their music; a release and sense of understanding that we all need right now.
They bring this onto the stage and can bond people instantly. Seeing an IDLES show is a revelatory experience and, whilst I still need to see it for myself first-hand, I know plenty of people who have seen them and can testify. I shall move on in a second but would suggest you go see the band play if you get the chance! They have been gigging for years now but seem to get stronger and more ambitious with every passing year. The fact they have more material under their belt means they have a fuller show but, as performers, I do feel like they are sharper and more nuanced. Cynics out there claim that Post-Punk does not have the same sway and pull as Pop and might not be as evocative as Rock and Indie music. Maybe there is a modicum of truth but Post-Punk is doing what Pop music struggles to do right now: get people moving; get the blood pumping and actually produce some energy. I do love Rock but there is a lack of inspiration and originality happening right now. I feel Post-Punk has a vital role to play right now and is filling many gaps. Even if the original Punk movement lasted a few years, the artists in the Post-Punk genre are producing music much more varied and complex than their older peers. When bands like IDLES bring this to the stage, it inspires others and will definitely resonate with upcoming bands. Before long, we will have a much larger movement that has the potential to endure for many more years! That will be exciting because, at a time when politicians are lying and letting us down, we do need bands like IDLES to lead the way. What I am not a fan of is when other bands turn on them and try to dispute their authenticity. IDLES have responded to criticism from the likes of Sleaford Mods and fought their corner. I do think all these bands need to work together because they have a very big role to play right now. Mutual understanding and respect could actually be of benefit and make a difference. We are all a little frayed and nervous so I do feel music has a big role to play.
PHOTO CREDIT: Pooneh Ghana
Growling, belching strings open the song with chug and force. The sound definitely offers a kick and, when the drum comes in, the song steps up and makes you move. It is always important starting a song with a sense of meaning and promise. IDLES are masterful when it comes to hooking you right away and producing something new. I do like how they sort of build this steam and sense of intrigue from the very off. You are definitely curious to see what is coming and are along for the ride. The introduction does not last that long but it moves through stages and manages to whip up plenty of energy! One gets some enigma and curiosity in the opening moments. Talbot sings about his head being destroyed and this sense of betrayal. The revolution is dead, it seems, and one gets the feeling that promises have been broken. Whether he is referring to our Government and what is happening with Brexit; maybe there is a nod to politics in general and how everything is motivated by personal greed. The composition is never too aggressive and intrusive and you get this nice little interplay between the vocal and composition. Our hero’s side is being split – not in a good way – and one can feel a tangible pain resonate. IDLES’ lead seconds what he and she said; there is an agreement and sense that everyone is in this same boat – one that is going to go down hard in the storm. With a chug and compositional steam that reminds me of Queens of the Stone Age, Mercedes Marxist gets under the skin very easily. It is another IDLES song that looks out at the world and does not focus wholly on the personal. Even though the hero is strained and annoyed, he is documenting what everyone else feels and is going through. Talbot has this patience in his voice that threatens to explode but he keeps his composure and looks around him.
Just as you feel like things are going to go off the rails, there is another twist and turn. In terms of true meaning, the band leaves the song open and inscrutable so one can decipher their own meaning. It is clear modern events in the U.K. have affected the song’s train of thought and ideals. Our man creates another plot twist when he talks about being wasted and on his knees. Whilst it might sound like bleak territory, one never feels haunted and down during the delivery. Talbot would wait at the gate and follow this person but he is already buckled and struck. There is this instant feeling that he is intoxicated and not able to meet a lover but there is also this feeling it could be a metaphor for general malaise and impotence. This feeling that things are heading in the wrong direction and the leaders out there are betraying the people. The song’s title projects images of political clashes and contradictions; those who should be looking out for the people and revolt but are more concerned with their own wealth and status. We can all get behind this notion and feeling that politicians do not have the best interests of the people at heart. We get this drunken-sounding chorus where the hero talks about being on his knees and wasted. He has gone through a lot and is seeking guidance. One can interpret Mercedes Marxist in a number of ways but it is evident that there are political concerns and doubts in mind. This is very much in safe and dependable IDLES territory but they offer something new on their latest single. In terms of lyrics, Mercedes Marxist might be simpler and less image-rich than a lot of their work but there is an immediate power and simplicity that gets the song into the head.
PHOTO CREDIT: Louise Mason
I do think that it hints at a new direction and signs that another album might be coming along very soon. As Mercedes Marxist gets near its end, you get the bellowing vocals and a lot of energy coming from the band. This is definitely IDLES stepping into new territory and trying something a little different. When listening back to Mercedes Marxist, I picked up new things and my mind was stretched in another direction. The band themselves know the truth behind the song and there is definite room for interpretation. This is a short, sharp shock that seems to find IDLES’ lead bereft and exhausted. He is a little cold and fatigued and he is definitely looking for answers. I felt that there was no specific person in mind regarding the song but more a general anger directed at politicians and the type of people who purport to lead the country and have everyone’s interests at heart. Maybe politicians have always been like this but we are living in especially extreme and turbulent times. It is only right that bands like IDLES should come forward and wag the finger. We can all relate to what they are saying and get behind their banner. I have already stated how there is this great Post-Punk movement happening and more and more bands keen to express their dissatisfaction. One never gets the sense these groups are trying to bring people down: conversely, their music is filled with hope and the feeling that change can come. IDLES are not just a band of angry young men who are fed up with everything and want to torch people. They know things are a bit crap and split but, rather than ache and shout, they are trying to bring us together and find a way through. This is very positive and will also inspire other bands to get involved and have their say. I do love Mercedes Marxist and what it says and, even if it does not lead to an album soon, it is a great cut from the band. It is one of their strongest songs yet and I love how confident they sound. The boys are on fire now and I do hope their majesty remains for many more years to come.
PHOTO CREDIT: Pooneh Ghana
Check out IDLES’ social media channels to see where they are heading off to now. They have a busy summer planned and are going everywhere. I love the fact the guys have this demand and fanbase but also hope that they can recharge and get back into the studio very soon. Their current single, Mercedes Marxist is a typically bold, enflamed and rich song that leaves impressions in the mind. In a scene with many false idols, I do think that the Bristol band is leading the way. Their music deftly mixes humour with intelligence; seriousness and pathos with something indescribable. The guys are a force to be reckoned with and have shown just what they are made of on their latest cut. I wonder whether this is the sign they are brewing a new album and what that might contain. Only last year did they release their second album, Joy as an Act of Resistance, so there is no rush to get something new out into the world. I know they are going to be busy with touring and there is no end in sight. They have been playing all over the world and really buzzing from the response they have garnered. So many people want to bond with IDLES and throw love their way. I am sure there will be more material coming this year and, whilst another album might not arrive until 2020, there is always something happening in the IDLES camp. The boys are funny and accessible when they are interviewed and always drop pearls of wisdom. They are a band that we all need to embrace and follow closely. The music they are putting out has real truth and inspiration and they are as real as anyone out there. Damned to the critics and jealous peers who lob offence and scepticism their way! We need to support IDLES as much as possible because they are throwing out this incredible music and have a lot to say. If you get a chance to listen to any of their interviews, I recommend you do so. Joe Talbot especially is very bright and engaging and you always learn something when he speaks. I do think IDLES have a very bright future and there is no telling how far they can go. With more music and increased tour demands, they are traveling the world and reaching new lands. Their music has enriched so many lives and is speaking to people in a very real and important way. Whereas our politicians cannot sort things out and give us hope, IDLES are here to cut through the crap and deliver something meaningful, direct and compassionate. This is what they are all about and for that we thank them! Check out Mercedes Marxist and, if you can, go and see them perform live. I am not sure where they are heading next and what will come but, knowing IDLES, it is likely to be…
PHOTO CREDIT: Jenn Five