Review Summary: Roddy Woomble as a travelling companion.
Up until now, I’d grown more and more wary of Idlewild and the incoherent hole they could fall yet further into. Where they finally seemed to have campaigned folk harmony into their music by 2005, they came back and glazed it all over with the most unconvincing of all of 2007’s guitar albums. Those one-route ramblings dictated from the thesaurus/bible of Roddy Woomble kept on happening too, and if you thought it couldn’t get worse than “History is made not repeated”
, you were wrong as soon as he hilariously self-mocked Can you hear the words I’m trying to find for the feelings that define you?
. Come 2009, though, and all signs point to regret: Woomble denied a band split, shook off the reality of becoming an Outkast album and spring-cleaned his copy of Warnings/Promises
to see where he could go from there once more. The result is the surviving Post Electric Blues
Post Electric Blues
is the aftermath and then some, and the recovery must relieve Woomble. His group’s previous two records sat polar opposites, drifting fan and band further away from one another times two. But where Warnings/Promises
and its follow-up Make Another World
were perhaps too different, their worlds of calm and chaos converge to form Idlewild’s seventh effort. “City Hall” plays up to the band’s pseudo patriotism without saying a thing of it (the hometown piano nostalgia, a sound through and through since their debut, is enough) and subtracts any wobbly wordplay (an old habit of Woomble’s) with scorching guitar riffs a la Make Another World
. The track simply bounces into the next, as ambitious balladry is ever fulfilled in “(The Night Will) Bring You Back To Life”, with Newton’s echoed percussion all about the mesmerising night stroll – coupled or not, Idlewild’s two signature sounds park side by side on Post Electric Blues
Woomble has ensured Idlewild arrive at the right time and Post Electric Blues
may just be the only album they will ever pitch for the sun. Waving goodbye to grit for good, tracks are all about the summer - “Readers & Writers” attaches any pop-rock ploy fathomable, with chimes, synth and a little background trumpet blasting through the fresh air. It’s the grandest proof the Scots could provide in confidence of craft -- an upbeat anthem for the outdoor season. The same goes for “Take Me Back To The Islands”, where Woomble takes all he has learnt from pop and folk - and all he hasn’t learnt from poetry – to write a saccharine celebration of lakeside living. Accompanying him are Heidi Talbot’s cameo croons, and her voice is all too welcome as she almost qualifies Woomble’s words (“The world will always seem so much younger than me when I take the boat out”
It’s easy to be bewildered by Idlewild’s seventh at first. Self-released to impatient devotees, I initially felt it was acting as a goodbye fanfare or a one-off thank you in the vein of Manic Street Preachers honourable Journal For Plague Lovers
from this year. Instead of the farewell, though, Woomble and co. are once more a band rehashing their identity, and even the optimists will have gone into 2009 as confused as any other fan as to what would be thrown their way. The lyricism continues a delicate grey area, with tongue-twisters such as Your hearts not the kind to go beating on its own
and They couldn’t and they shouldn’t have/but they could and they should have
the reason I don’t believe in literacy. However in the end it’s going to be a year less divisive for the quintuplet than the past four because Woomble and Jones use Post Electric Blues
to walk through their festering influences of traditional folk (“Take Me Back To The Islands”) and their pulse for Grateful Dead hard rock (“Dreams Of Nothing”) and finally give fans belief in both. It’s the rightful tender step onwards from Warnings/Promises
that should have cut out the middle man and been rejoiced for in 2007; instead, it’s Idlewild’s quiet damage repair after that loud and proud outburst before it. And it’s summer now, so no one will notice.