Review: IDLES – Joy as an Act of Resistance

‘Joy as an Act of Resistance’ is the elevating second album from Bristol punks IDLES, following on from the immense success of their debut record ‘BRUTALISM’ last year.

The record starts with the ominous building of single ‘Colossus’, which isn’t far from the aggression and catharsis of their debut record. Frontman Joe Talbot sings ‘I am my father’s son / His shadow weighs a tonne’¸ and the theme of toxic masculinity is introduced. It’s one the band have explored before, but it takes more of a prominent position this time round. Though it’s not all gloom, as the track stops and starts up again in boisterous noise.

‘Never Fight A Man With A Perm’ is an absolute storm, and one of the band’s best tracks to date. Driven by a post-punk beat, and twisting lyrics from Nancy Sinatra’s ‘These Boots Are Made For Walkin’’ too, the track is just the start of the discussion of masculinity on the album. Different types of toxic men are discussed: a heathen from Eton, a man that is so obese he looks like a walking thyroid, and a Topshop tyrant with a violent haircut that looks like he could be on Love Island. The lyrical gusto on ‘Joy As An Act Of Resistance’ is IDLES’ best work yet, but it’s not scathing – by the end of the track Joe says he’ll shut his mouth and hug it out.

And that is what makes this record so great. Taboos are pushed to the forefront, but not in a way that will alienate in aggression, as that is after all what IDLES are trying to combat. Instead they celebrate the flaws, hence the title that feeds like a mantra into every track. Where this album leaves a bitter taste in your mouth from harsh truths, light is shone, and spirits are lifted in the execution. The band’s innate ability to bring sensitive topics forward with intellectual satire and fact is even more palpable on this effort, always willing to confront what other artists struggle to address.

‘Scum’ is about celebrating the things about us that people so love to hate, whether that’s living in a council house, being a lefty, or a ‘snowflake’, it is musically upbeat with a marching attitude, like an anthem for everyone who has even been made fun of for just being real – for the people that care more about where the high street’s gone, than who will be the next James Bond (he’s a murdering toff anyway). The socio-political relevance doesn’t stop there, with ‘Danny Nedelko’ being a love letter to immigrants, and ‘Love Song’ being a forbidding grungy punk track about modern love, where the lyrics are as unsettling as the sparse instrumentation and stirring guitars. The most heart wrenching track however is ‘June’, written about Joe’s stillborn child Agatha, put to music that encompasses and overwhelms.

‘Samaritans’ brings the discussion back to one of the most prominent themes of the record; it’s an oddly uplifting massive middle finger up to patriarchy and toxic masculinity. Musically repetitive and ordered like the rules men have been given on how to act and how to be their whole lives, the song turns on its head and raises a toast with seconds to spare – ‘I kissed a boy and I liked it’ Joe sings towards the end. Following on are two tracks in a similar, care free vein, ‘Television’ tells you to love yourself, and ‘Great’ discusses the ridiculous ignorance of Brexit Britain, ‘Islam didn’t eat your hamster / Change isn’t a crime’.

The final three tracks on the album act as the seamless conclusion to such a poignant album: ‘Gram Rock’ is chaotic and brazen, with Joe shouting’10 points to Gryffindor’ manically towards the end, ‘Cry To Me’ drones, and is an order for you to cry because it’s okay to cry, and ‘Rottweiler’ ends the album with clashing instrumentation, signifying all the emotion discussed and felt in a sonic exultation.

In a society so divided, where the tension is so thick you could cut it with a knife, IDLES have delivered ‘Joy as an Act of Resistance’, in a time that has never needed such an album more.

‘Joy as an Act of Resistance’ is out on Friday 31st August and you can pre order here.