IDLES is a Bristol-based punk outfit that in my opinion perfectly represents the genre in the modern age. Their previous releases Brutalism and Joy as an Act of Resistance were both received with critical acclaim, making their third album a highly anticipated one. And I’m proud to announce that Ultra Mono does not disappoint. IDLES moves away from the pop-heavy and melodic style of American punk, instead delivering their own vitriolic style of rhythmic pounding noise–like a sledgehammer making its way through a concrete wall.
Their messaging is simple and straight to the point, anthemic and attuned to the times. Although punk can at times be narrow in their instrumentation choices, this isn’t the case with IDLES, opting to use electronic noise and synths to complement the guitars. They dip their toes in industrial textures and synths while still being unapologetically rock–with beastial screeches and scraping metal sheets clashing with primal percussive beats.
Opener “War” is your quintessential anti-war anthem with a noise profile that takes you in the middle of a chaotic gunfight. “Grounds” is a rhythmic romp that tells the masses that there is power in unity. A call to action against oppression and injustice that’s permeating the world today.
One might think this subject matter is too gloomy and too hard to dwell on, especially in our current isolated lives. But these songs have a tinge of irony and self-awareness that keeps things from going dour. “Mr. Motivator” is an empowering anthem with quirky metaphors. With phrases like: “Like Conor McGregor with a samurai sword on rollerblades / “Like Vasyl Lomachenko after four pints of Gatorade”, all used as motivation, before saying “How’d you like them cliches?”. IDLES knows how to have fun, and they’d happily take you along with it.
The band doesn’t shy away from pointing things out with brutal clarity, gaining them fans and critics alike. “Model Village” talks about the tendencies of sheltered rural areas to be a hotbed of racism and homophobia. “Carcinogenic” talks about the injustices in society that we tend to normalize and do nothing about: “Getting minimum wage, while your boss takes a raise / Over-working, working nurses and teachers.” The song urges that we only live once, and therefore we should do something before the “Lunatics” take over. “Reigns” sings about modern day slavery over steel cable basslines that sends waves of shivers down the spine.
None of these songs feel repetitive or drag, which is oftentimes a pitfall for longer punk records like these. They are willing to experiment while keeping the spirit of the genre intact. IDLES shows that they are on top of their game, and are ready to carry the punk banner for years to come.