IDLES – ‘Brutalism’ (Balley Records) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Rich Hobson   
Tuesday, 14 March 2017 04:00

IDLES - BrutalismWith a shriek of “no surrender”, IDLES kick off their debut album with a characteristically violent dry humour that hits like a kick to the teeth. Born out of frustration with the dying indie scene in their native Bristol, the band draw sonic comparisons with the likes of Sleaford Mods via Evil Blizzard, hammering away at nihilistic post-punk with plenty to be pissed off about.


A claustrophobic drumbeat hacks away on opener ‘Heel/Heal’ before bursting forth with bass-driven punk energy that wouldn’t be a million miles away from Canadian punk weirdos NoMeansNo. But where NoMeansNo might balance out with nonsensical humorous lyrics, IDLES’ humour is of a pitch black variety; spitting venom with a grin as the band poke fun at the likes of Rothko, Mary Berry and the Tories across thirteen tracks.


Indignant and abrasive right from the off, the band clearly aren’t making any commercial concessions as they plow head-first into a world of irritants. Vocalist Joseph Talbot drones insidiously as the album begins, slowly building the furious cacophony that has become the band’s identifying marker. It’s all go from here.


Furious spit single ‘Well Done’ snaps into action with a riff that jerks spasmodically, a spiteful snarl-along chorus giving the band their first bona fide earworm of the album. Follow-up ‘Mother’ (a recent Über Rock 'Video of the Week') swings with an ominous riff, once again partnered with an addictively catchy hook – “The best way to scare a Tory is to read and get rich”, a line which almost eclipses the song’s beautifully simplistic chorus. By packing tinned riffs into every song, the band achieve the sonic equivalent of spam – it’s not insanely creative, but you know exactly what you’re getting and goddamn if it’s not addictive.



All sources of annoyance are fair game for the IDLES boys, the band firing off anger at the likes of rape culture, disease and politics as though they are tearing through a personal shit-list. Tanked up on the spirit of punk at its purest, ‘Brutalism’ isn’t afraid to give the listener a clout around the ears whilst also educating them on some of life’s more nuanced foibles.


Melodic punk bangers ‘Mother’ and ‘1049 Gotho’ bristle uncomfortably next to the no-quarter approach of ‘Divide & Conquer’, a track which sees the band at their most incessantly rhythmic – the soundtrack to impending doom. It’s not big, but what the band do is absolutely very clever, boasted a learned and pragmatic sense of social activism and anger with none of the daydream naiveté.


There’s no dreaming to be had throughout 'Brutalism', the album painting an eerily accurate painting of the nightmare vision the middle-to-upper classes see of the working class. Lines like “He punched himself in the face/to prove he wasn’t gay” could be lifted directly from an overheard conversation on the bus, while the line “Did you see that painting that Rothko did?/Looked like it’d been done by a four-year-old kid” drips pure satire.



'Brutalism' is a suckerpunch to the chops, a fresh entry onto the modern British music landscape with all the hallmarks of greatness. It’s funny, it’s furious, it’s cheeky and addictive, a product of the world it was born into and very much recognisable to anybody who finds the world lacking in quality. From frantic to rhythmic and everywhere in between, IDLES aren’t afraid to get strange with their music. The band fire riffs off like cracking a whip, snapping the eardrums into attention. Ending on a piano ballad (or as close to a piano ballad as they are likely to get), the band smear the listener with one last tar-stained gob of spit, crooning lines like “I’m the worst lover you’ll ever have” as they back away into the night.


IDLES aren’t here to talk about brotherly love, or how things can be great if we all just get along; the band are a snarling announcement that there is plenty to be pissed about and, as the Network quote goes – they’re mad as hell and they aren’t going to take it any more.


‘Brutalism’ is out now.


IDLES play Handmade Festival in April, Download Festival in June and Reading/Leeds Festivals in August.

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