Review Summary: This luminous emptiness, this feeling of hope -- it's perfect for this restless soul.
As a return album, 2015’s Everything Ever Written
was bold and inventive for Scottish Idlewild. Two new band members in keyboardist Luciano Rocci and bassist Andrew Mitchell aided in filling out the band’s polished indie rock, and it sounded like the six-year layoff had sparked creativity in the band as a whole. Roddy Woomble’s aging ramblings hit the wall with a strangely youthful force, and much of it stuck when it easily couldn’t have. Curve balls like “I’m in that photograph, but it was taken before I was actually alive,” and “every little must mean something more than enough,” encouraged you to gaze upon the frontman’s wax-poetic imagery with wonder and intrigue at what the he
ll he was getting at.
This habit of poetically saying nothing at all shadows Woomble once again in the follow-up to Everything Ever Written
. Now four years later, Interview Music
is a record as dense and conflicted as the frontman’s gobbledygook would have us believe he is as a writer. Whereas before his depictions were flavorful and bolstered by solid REM-like rock songs from his surrounding team, here highlight pickings for intelligent insights are slim, and Idlewild as a whole sound lost and in the process of aging horribly.
The title track has the whole band pushing full-on ahead amidst garage-rock freak-outs, dissonant, calamitous keyboard lines, and Woomble going on about consumerism and exceeding expectations, or something like that, before slamming the brakes on next cut “All These Words”, a track harkening back to Idlewild’s The Remote Part
days, arguably where the band were at their strongest. Unlike the songs of that album, however, the chorus hook on offer is weak, and Woomble doesn’t help with his admonishing a lover in leaving about nothing: “And I don’t know if I can say goodbye to you because sometimes goodbyes are something you can’t choose.”
Idlewild do that a lot on Interview Music
, unfortunately: forking themselves while on a sonic path. They try to gloss over that issue with ambient interludes to segue the different-sounding tracks together, such as on the end of the previously mentioned “All These Words”, the end of Artic-Monkeys-sounding and ironically self-referential “Same Things Twice”, the end of garage-rocky and horned-touched “Mount Analogue”, and the end of penultimate “Familiar to Ignore”, which happens to be the strongest song here, with its flavorful switch of pace early on to full throttle and rare instance of Woomble nailing his words with meaning: “No amount of sleep can prepare you for your dreams.” The interludes are cheap in their employment and make the band’s efforts to tie the album together obvious and cringingly trite.
A lovely piano ditty with tone and production a la Gary Jules’ “Mad World” cover finds Woomble talking to himself about existentialism and the placing of others on closer “Lake Martinez”. Save for the keys of Rossi, Woomble is alone here, and fittingly he sings about it: “It’s hard to write down how you’re feeling. Everyone’s always getting up and leaving. I feel fictional, going deeper into daydreams to understand it truthfully.” Perhaps that’s the real problem with how Woomble writes, I suppose, at least on Interview Music
-- it’s his own fictional daydream, and we can only guess at its meaning, yet with none in sight. Coming on almost two decades ago, he sang, “There was nothing but determination to come in third,” and now in the present, that’s where Woomble and Idlewild are: last place and slowly fading.