18 November 2021 (gig)
19 November 2021
It’s only been 5 years since the release of IDLES first album Brutalism and the momentum has not let up. They’ve just returned from The States and have a tour planned for Australia and New Zealand next year, adding to an already sold out tour of the UK and Europe and are being considered by some the best touring live act in the UK just now.
To celebrate the release of the band’s new album Crawler, their fourth, released November 12th via Partisan Records, EartH Hall, Hackney hosted a special live performance for the 1000 plus uber fans lucky enough to get tickets. To note, the venue security did a sterling job getting everyone checked and filed through the narrow entrance of the venue for a 9:15pm kick off.
IDLES have always shunned the references to punk rock, but they do admit the similarities, when much of their catalogue includes aggressive and volatile motorik rhythms. But they are so much more than what is taken by some at face value, where they flip the rage on its head, endorsing justice, equal rights, love rather than hate; underpinning the urgency of the music with some stark and at times ruthless lyrics.
They began with three songs from the new album. Firstly, opener MTT 420 RR, named after a motorcycle, that nearly caused lead singer Joe Talbot’s early demise. Just like the references to a coming storm, the song builds in intensity as Talbot reflects on his own mortality and history of addiction: ‘It was February. I was cold, and I was high…’
Then follows The Wheel. The rhythm kicks in and the chorus implores for a, ‘hallelujah, the one from the back now.’ But If you ask of the song the question what and why, then it’s another brutally honest song inspired by some very painful and life changing events – on this occasion the devastation of alcoholism.
The new songs loom like an ominous cloud. Lyrically, they do well to communicate the candid and reflective intentions Talbot wanted to express. Overall, Crawler is much more introspective, and when the familiar intro to Mr Motivator from Ultra Mono begins, there is some welcome release of tension as the audience cheer and start to dance.
Talbot brings to mind Johnny “Rooster” Byron (Jerulsalem) as he furiously prowls, jumping on the spot between songs, psyching himself up for the next. Jon Beavis and Adam Devonshire hold the back line, tight and strong, giving room to guitarists Mark Bowen and Lee Kiernan to make wide use of the stage as they writhe and slink about.
Car Crash, a definite highlight from the new album, announces it’s arrival with jarring industrial sounds. As its title suggests, the song is an ode to the morning after: the ‘what am I doing with my life’ despair. It tells yet another violent and candid story and closes with a catchy Nirvana-like refrain, that gets under the skin, ‘I can feel my eyes vibrate… I can feel my eyes vibrate.’ Talbot managed to forget the lyrics to the next newbie, The New Sensation, and with a confident smile decided that ‘sometimes what is worse is better!’ He really couldn’t do anything wrong tonight anyhow.
IDLES have enough material now so that when choosing a setlist there’s the question as to which classic from the back catalogue do they leave out? But inclusion of Mother and 1049 Gotho (Brutalism) and Never Fight a Man with a Perm (Joy as an Act of Resistance) were welcomed by everyone. For most, it was the first opportunity to hear live songs from Ultra Mono, pandemic considered, and Reigns and War were storming. By this time, the walls were dripping with sweat.
The last half hour was a tad protracted as Love Song morphed into a grotesque medley that included ABBA - Knowing Me Knowing You, Adele - Someone Like You, Dirty Dancing - If I Had The Time of My Life, Sam Cooke - Cupid, and Mariah Caret - All I Want For Christmas is You with Bowen and Kiernen taking to the crowd. Talbot gave sincere thanks to all for supporting and sticking with the band these past difficult months and then they performed Danny Nedelko as a celebration of immigration, followed by two fingers up to the right-wing press machine with Rottweiler (aided with percussion on stage by a thrilled teenager picked from the front row). An end and encore wrapped into one.
As IDLES increasingly continue to grow their fanbase it was a privilege to see them one more time in a small venue that they have since outgrown. Crawler is a solid album to their respectable canon of work, and there seems to be no letting up to their explosive energy.
MTT 420 RR
When the Lights Come On
The New Sensation
The Beachland Ballroom
Never Fight a Man with a Perm