18 September 2018
Bristol’s loud and clear punks IDLES formed in 2011. After storming the indie scene in
2016 with red-hot-blooded debut LP Brutalism the band returned a couple of weeks
ago with boiling album number two. JOY AS AN ACT OF RESISTANCE will be on top
of countless end-of-the-year lists, except on the list of the Theresa May‘s of this world.
It’s an awesome record, from the burning start to the reflective, slow savage finish.
A terrifically cracking masterslam in rip-roaring sound and social vision. Hell yeah!
Here’s thanks to npr music, its writer Bob Boilen and, of course Idles‘ energetic
frontman Joe Talbot a closer look into the awesome longplayer, track-by-track…
Here’s the music...
Here are the stories…
This song was written purposely as the opener to the album; we always try and write records as an entity in itself with a brief. We wanted the first track to be cinematic and ominous, as a way of capturing the pressures of performance and grief. We wrote the
first crescendo part in about 10 minutes and fell in love. We knew we wanted to throw
in a grandiose red herring that would contrast with our more regular bosh of garagey blabbersmash. The lyrics came swift and it all wrote itself, so to speak.
2. NEVER FIGHT A MAN WITH A PERM
This song came about when I said the album needed a knife to cut through the macabre timbre of the album’s arch; as soon as I mentioned “knife,” Bobo [guitarist Mark Bowen] shat the riff out like he knew the album wanted it also. I wanted the song to be an exploration of the horrid corners of my past; the bit I felt shame from. I think of my art as a way of being vulnerable, an exercise in catharsis, and a reflection of my ugliness that can exalt shame. Here it manifested into something beautiful, as all catharsis should be.
3. I’M SCUM
This was a song built on pace. We wanted to slow the record down and force the listener to march to our beat. The notion of a parade came to mind as soon as we came up with the beat. I wanted it to be a celebration, a defiant parade of all the things. This was a song that we all wrote in unison, and it really gave us a surge. It allowed each individual to breathe. This song helped me come to accept that I am whatever people say, and that’s OK. There was an instant feeling of relief once I realized that.
4. DANNY NEDELKO
This song came about in the belly of the album. We were in full swing of Joy and the momentum of this song summed up the spirit of our union. I promised Danny [Nedelko, member of Bristol band Heavy Lungs and a Ukrainian immigrant] I’d write a song for him and him me; the tone comes from Danny, and the lyrics came as I thought of his exuberance and how important people like Danny are. I think of this one more as a humane portrait than a political song, but I wanted the two notions to be inseparable.
5. LOVE SONG
We wrote this track as a techno-type tune and I loved it, I wanted to use the dark tone as a vehicle to carry a message of unadulterated love for my partner and embody the strength of vulnerability and compassion. Plus, I love Dirty Dancing.
I wrote this song for me. It’s the only song where I’ve ever written the lyrics first and will probably remain so. I struggled to see where it would fit on the album because it was so personal, but after hearing the riff Lee [Kiernan, guitarist] wrote, I realized that I did want to show my pain. I wanted to illuminate the importance of grieving parents’ right to call themselves mothers and fathers. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to play that song live.
I’m not sure where the music came from for this one; I think I was absent when it came together, but when I heard it for the first time I wrote the lyrics on the spot. I’d just read The Descent Of Man and Grayson Perry’s words struck me with such vigor that it all just came out immediately. I’m very grateful to Perry and other artists who encapsulate such complexity with a sledge-hammer.
I wrote this as a song to my daughter. I wanted to write about the new sense of self-belief I’ve found in celebrating my flaws, but also to motivate my future children in a subversive text.
Brexit. This song is confused and scared, but offers a withered gesture of reassurance that we are all capable of love. The music was based on a jungle bassline I wrote, we then just f***** around with it. The pure celebration of what we love led me to talk about something I don’t.
10. GRAM ROCK
We wrote this as a concept song: we said yes to every idea proposed musically and then applied that to the subject of two coked-up bankers at a funeral. Yes.
11. CRY TO ME
I’ve always been infatuated by this song. I f****** love it. I thought it’d be a magic b-side to the “Samaritans” single, and one night the instrumentation came whilst listening to Grinderman. Plus, I love Dirty Dancing.
This is the oldest song on the album and the perfect closer for an album of self-realization. It’s a war cry where I wash my hands of the torrid hateful tabloid press and put my reading glasses on.