Idles make punk perfection by fusing the personal and the political on Joy as an Act of Resistance | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Idles make punk perfection by fusing the personal and the political on Joy as an Act of Resistance


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The name “Idles” is something of a misnomer—the members of this five-piece UK punk band have worked their tails off to cement their sound since forming in Bristol in 2011. By the time they self-released their debut full-length in 2017, they’d nailed it. Brutalism is as near perfect as any punk record in years, with heartbreak, desperation, joy, and hilarity playing tug-of-war across its wiry, mutating tracks—often within a single verse. Front man Joe Talbot writes lyrics that overflow with wry observations and sociopolitical barbs, which he delivers as a mix of stream-of-conscious monologues, hazy flashbacks, barroom taunts, and late-night confessions. Brutalism is in part a tribute to Talbot’s mother, whose photo appears on the cover. She’d had a stroke when he was 16 (he’d been her caretaker for years, ever since his stepfather died), and she passed away during the making of the album. Even without knowing the backstory, you can tell from listening to it that Talbot was going through a lot when he wrote it, and his struggles are relatable—you find yourself hoping things will get better for him. Unfortunately, reality hasn’t cooperated. Last year he and his partner lost their baby to a stillbirth. The pain of that experience flavors Idles’ new album, Joy as an Act of Resistance (Partisan), as do Talbot’s ruminations on masculinity—the way traditional ideas of maleness have affected his sense of self as well as macro-level cultural and political phenomena. The songs on Joy also address immigration rights, homophobia, and modern love, and Talbot can cut to the heart of any subject—though some listeners have misunderstood his characters’ uglinesses for things he believes himself. “I think people get angry about my lyrics—but they all actually make complete sense to me,” he told NME last year. “I’m not fucking Leonard Cohen. Does it have to fucking change your world? It’s changed mine. Fuck off!” With their driving beats, disjointed guitars, and maniacal swagger, Idles invite you into their world face-first. Joy is music for anyone who’s been through the wringer and come out standing.   v

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