IDLES
Joy as an Act of Resistance


4.5
superb

Review

by hung0ver USER (18 Reviews)
August 31st, 2018 | 114 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: I've got a penchant for smokes and kicking douches in the mouth. Sadly for you, my last cigarette's gone out.

Joy as an Act of Resistance is a very important album, especially given the context of it's release. Punk tends to suffer under conservative governments - not because of a lack of anything to be angry about, but because often satirising such obvious and easy targets is difficult without being painfully derivative. 'Rock Against Bush' and the radio punk of the early 2000s stands as proof of this, and it could be argued that political punk as a broad movement hasn't really ever reclaimed the heights it reached in the 80s, as old titans grew impotent to attack the same evils, and newer artists didn't pick up the slack. Sophomore albums are also not the easiest things to get right - just look at the dearth of recent British bands who have, to varying degrees, failed to follow through on their initial promise - Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, Marmozets, Catfish and the Bottlemen to name just a few.

IDLES' first album wasn't just 'promising' or 'good', as many of their contemporaries' debuts were however - Brutalism was arguably the best punk album of the decade upon release, at least on this side of the pond. Vicious, scathing, bleak and darkly comedic, it was a breath of fresh air; a revisiting of a different era of punk and post-punk, with political lyrics not wrapped up in cheesy metaphor, but direct and blunt. Critics loved it too, with even the infamous Anthony Fantano singing it's praises, and for such a young band, an album like Brutalism is undoubtedly a daunting one to follow up. But for anyone curious about the quality of Joy, fear not - old fan or new, there's something here for everyone, even if it's not quite the same record as it's predecessor.

Where their debut was very much tonally consistent, IDLES relish the opportunity to throw variety and difference into the mix on this new LP. Melody has become a more central focus, and whilst hooks were never really the focal point of the band's songwriting, they've begun to take more prominence on Joy. This isn't to say that the record is the band selling out - quite the contrary, but the infectious optimism of lead single 'Danny Nedelko's chorus is sure to worm it's way into your subconscious. 'Great' works a similar angle, a scathing, sarcastic cross-examination of Brexit voters taking a tongue-in-cheek jab at the misinformation that clouded the referendum on lines like "Blighty wants her blue passport, not quite sure what the Union's for". 'Television' completes the trio of overtly positive songs, decrying the mass media's obsession with beauty, emphasising self love through some cathartic acts of destructiveness, and holds up as a standout track alongside two of the record's singles.

This melody hasn't watered down the band's fury though - 'Gram Rock', 'I'm Scum' and 'Never Fight a Man with a Perm' make up three of the band's heavies tracks to date, utilising the bottom end of the guitar in a way that's usually been reserved for pummeling bass lines in the group's back catalogue. The bleakness of Brutalism rears its head repeatedly too - 'Samaritan's rally against toxic masculinity feels like the kindred spirit of a track like 'Exeter', whilst 'Rottweiler's sheer tirade of energy is sure to get some circle pits moving, with its frenetic punk rhythms. 'Love Song' even feels like a direct sequel to 'Date Night', picking at the issues of modern love, from it's materialism to possessiveness, veering away from the initial optimism of the track into uncomfortable dissonance and violence.

Where Idles really shine however, is on the tracks they decide to experiment within their formula. 'Colossus', the opener, embraces the atmospheric percussiveness of post-punk, building tension through repeated lyrical cycles before closing out with a blast of more orthodox, punkish noise. Setting an uncomfortable tone initially before resolving, the track embodies the tension and cathartic release that plays out across the album, and gives the rhythm section a go in the spotlight which Talbot's charismatic vocal performance usually occupies. The most impactful moment however, is one almost devoid of the furious guitars and mechanical rhythm that drives much of the record. It is one of absolute contrast, something IDLES attempted before on 'Slow Savage', but didn't quite nail.

'June' is a simple, atmospheric song about a misscarriage. Coming slap bang in the middle of the track listing, it's an uncomfortable listen and provides a much needed pause from aggression to vent something a lot more tender. A lyrical idea is repeated to close the song - "Baby shoes for sale, never worn." This simple sentiment is testament to how well this album succeeds in what it sets out to do - for all the bravado, politics and fire, IDLES know exactly when, and more importantly how, to show vulnerability.

I opened this review by saying this album is important, and I double down on that. Sure, it's not flawless - the football-chant-ish chorus on 'I'm Scum' feels a little jarring, and the penultimate track 'Cry to Me's weird, off kilter feeling, whilst unsettling and satisfying, isn't as memorable as the rest of the album. But in spite of these minor flaws, there's nothing notably subpar here, and the eclectic nature of the album makes it a constantly engaging listen where other punk albums might become a little tiring after 40 plus minutes. Heavy, chaotic, emotional, melodic, raw - Joy as an Act of Resistance is about as good a follow up to IDLES' debut as anyone could have hoped for. Sophomore records are difficult, and so is making political punk that doesn't end up derivative or cheap, but somehow, in spite of it all, IDLES have triumphed on Joy. If you're pro-Trump, for you this album ain't, but for the rest of us, go listen to IDLES. They're pretty good.



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user ratings (669)
3.9
excellent
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the people's champ...

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Comments:Add a Comment 
Tunaboy45
August 31st 2018


17237 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

fitting name because I'm hanging out my arse right now



Agreed about Cry To Me, it feels like the only slightly wasted opportunity on the album, still solid though

widowslaugh123
September 1st 2018


2374 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This sounds really great I need to check. Also pos great review

Flugmorph
September 1st 2018


23424 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"Punk tends to suffer under conservative governments"

doesnt it thrive there tho. like thats why punk exists in the first place goddamnit.

Coldplaz
September 2nd 2018


97 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Punk has always been about being anti-establishment... These guys are pro-immigrant, anti-brexit and towing the mainstream media lines. THIS IS NOT PUNK. Just some SJW bitches trying to capitalize on dumb millennials.



Tunaboy45
September 2nd 2018


17237 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

are you one of those dullards who thinks conservatism is 'the new punk' lol

Flugmorph
September 2nd 2018


23424 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i think thats right wing propaganda

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
September 2nd 2018


20564 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"are you one of those dullards who thinks conservatism is 'the new punk' lol"

ew gross

ramon.
September 2nd 2018


3759 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I feel like punk is more an outlet for any kind of pol activism now and isnt contingent on the existence of overt conservatism, rather just people who are pro specific things and against specific other things



I’d say Idles certainly play some fairly common and safe cards but I don’t think they do a bad job making their points concise and entertaining

hung0ver
September 2nd 2018


17 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

If you don’t like ‘SJw’s then i can’t lie, punk probably ain’t the place for you considering it’s been fighting racism, sexism, bigotry and fascism since day one. Some hopsin might be more your speed mate.

zakalwe
September 2nd 2018


32044 Comments


I’m a pro racist, sexist, fascist, bigot. I feel massively underrepresented in modern music with all these bands and artists singing absolute nonsense. hip-hop is the only single genre that gets me.

Tunaboy45
September 2nd 2018


17237 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

you'll love Kamizake then ; )

zakalwe
September 2nd 2018


32044 Comments


I can see why people dig this but it’s just missing a bit of vinegar for me. A lack of bite, a bit too tidy and constructed and a distinct lack of vengeful assault through need.
This is more punk through requirement. Preaching to the choir.

Tunaboy45
September 2nd 2018


17237 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I get you, it definitely isn't gonna be for everyone and if you like your punk with a bit more bite i can see why you're not into it.

Having said that, Never Fight a Man With a Perm is pure piss and vinegar

butcherboy
September 2nd 2018


9464 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

yea, I like these guys..but repeated listens won’t be kind on this album.. lyrics are the sort of poetry I wrote when I was 16..

widowslaugh123
September 2nd 2018


2374 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

New listener to the band here. First album is the better one. I don’t know why you guys are getting hung up on it’s punk merits tho. Yeah it isn’t the gnarliest thing ever written but it still kicks ass. It’s no pop record that’s for sure. Haven’t been paying much attention to the lyrics other than the random lines that stick out to me so not sure if they are SJW faggots or whatever. I dig em.

Flugmorph
September 2nd 2018


23424 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

widowslaugh knows





davesthesay
September 5th 2018


62 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The punk label isn't a good fit for Idles (even though it's the closest description). They've got too many indie influences. They remind me of Fucked Up, although they sound nothing alike.

Taxt
September 8th 2018


1426 Comments


Perm is so great

rudy4u51
October 14th 2018


55 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Nice review. pos

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
May 16th 2020


19990 Comments


don't forget to tune in to "block by blockwest" in minecraft tonight to hear these guys live



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