Review Summary: the people's champ
I pissed myself laughing a few times while listening to this album. I’m certainly not the arbiter of comedic genius but I’ve followed comedy closely for over twenty years, and I have many comedian friends. “You're one big neck with sausage hands”, “As he cries at the price of a bacon bap”, “Nothing could be sadder than a glass of wine alone”, “Be my wife”, maybe these aren’t the best examples of meticulous wit and double entendre to be found on the record but I guess that’s half the point. When the lyrics aren’t painfully entertaining, the performances are, and vice-versa. It’s not to say the record is devoid of depth and commentary; that’s arguably the core of the record. There’s just something so tickling about a band who can pull me from general indifference and empty-headedness into a world of hurt, only to binge me full of booze n’ bounty until I’m screaming to the rafters about shi
t I didn’t give a metric damn about hours prior. If Brutalism
was the avalanche, Joy as an Act of Resistance
is the determined St. Bernard sent to pull my hazy dope from the aftermath and tell me there’s a war I’m meant to be fighting in.
Irrespective of whether the war I’m gonna be fighting is of any worth to me, it’s difficult to ignore the balls-to-the-fuc
king-ceiling drive of this album. Unless it’s specifically the track “June” which morphs from the deliberate, repetitious hum of a distant tank to the deliberate, repetitious hum of a tank that is right next to you waving a flag of opposition, Joy as an Act of Resistance
is riot after anthem after riot. Talbot’s incessant screaming about hating yourself and loving yourself and hating the system and hating the system is a persistent run-on sentence that refuses to punctuate itself lest the weight of impact being delivered in lines like “For a long old while I'm known as scum” and “'Cause I smash mirrors and fuc
k TV” prevent you from self-deprecating with authority and having mental intercourse with the pull of your lounge movie set. While percussive ideas are echoed from both Brutalism
and even this album itself, the relentless pounding only serves to make every smart and dumb thing Talbot says feel like truth
An untapped stream of live openers, Joy as an Act of Resistance
somehow manages to one-up its predecessor in the sonic aggression sector. Maybe even to its own detriment; I’d say there isn’t a single track that isn’t lyrically intriguing but “Gram Rock” felt musically tired. An intended side-effect of its thematic content？ Probably. Idles’ pairing of instrumentation and the words being spoken is bang-on in this album but a couple of the chubbier cuts feel almost pressured into putting on the pounds by Talbot. It’s a shame then that the song is my favourite on the record because it’s making me forget that there’s no shame in enjoying dumb, raucous shi
t every now and then. The track is a no-nonsense pounding and the contrast of an opening “I'm sorry your granddad's dead” with a closing “Ten points to Gryffindor” makes it incredibly hard to do my god-given duty of trying to complain about this record.
If anything, the record feels a bit lazy from time to time. Tracks like “Cry To Me” almost sound like they were written to be played around the 74% mark of a set so the band has freedom to swig from their goblets and crack a few jokes with each other while the audience tries to hold their fluids. It’s such a comfortable laziness though, and entering Joy as an Act of Resistance
with the hopes of something brimming with musical intricacy beyond “punch a hole in that snare” is probably the wrong approach. Similarly, for all of the lyrical prowess that Talbot does possess, it is plenty clear he’s having just as much twisted fun writing John Wick one-liners as he is providing highly individual insight on sexuality, political crossfire, masculinity, wealth, and whoever or whatever might happen to be the brunt of any given analogy. The snow is ice cold, and there’s a dog with the face of a British punk frontman peering over me, and there’s saliva and hair and a mysterious keg. I’m not 100% certain what substance this fuzzy fiend is feeding me, but it tastes damn good and I’m ready to go to war.