Make no mistake, ‘Brutalism’ by Idles is a negative record. They’re not a band whose primary objective is to gain any sort of mass admiration. This is a record that was created with frustration, disdain and regret in mind. And that alone should immediately make it worth listening to.
Gaining recognition on EPs ‘Welcome’ and ‘Meat’ as a haywire indie group with touches of Joy Division, this 13-track effort aims to up the ante of previous works. Revolving around scattergun rhythm sections played with hammered drum beats and screeching guitar leads, the hissing of feedback feels as at home here as every other instrument.
The musical approach is often minimal and repetitive. But it feels intentional to use as little as possible to make something enormous. Take opener ‘Heel_Heal’, where each repetition of its verse and chorus sees frontman Joe Talbot become more unhinged, turning the song from an unsettling alt rock number to a snarling cacophony of Jesus Lizard-esque delirium.
Talbot and his scathing darkly-humoured lyrics is the most striking aspect of ‘Brutalism’. Class-divide lies at the heart of tracks like ‘Well Done’ which echoes advice on how to live well by middle-class mentors, stating ‘getting a degree’ and ‘winning a medal’ should be aspirational because baking Goddess Mary Berry has done both. Meanwhile ‘White Priviledge’ rips into the ignorant attitudes of these same people towards the less fortunate (“Oh he’s poor? Never bored.”)
Closing with the fragile ‘Slow Savage’, confronting a failed relationship with lines like “I’m probably the worst lover you ever had”, listeners can picture Talbot translating feelings that previously resulted in aimless frustration into song. In ‘Brutalism’ Idles have created a catharsis for unresolved frustrations of everyday life, delivered through in-your-face scorching punk. It’s a negative record, but the intensity of it is anything but.
‘Brutalism’ by Idles is released on March 10th on Balley Records.
Words by Andy Davidson (@AndyrfDavidson)