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IDLES
IDLES Dates
Tue 24 Sep 2024 - 20:00 EDT
English Teacher
Roadrunner, Boston, MA
Fri 27 Sep 2024 - 19:00 EDT
Forest Hills Stadium, Forest Hills, NY

IDLES Biography

In just 40 minutes, Joe Talbot says the word love 29 times. He speaks of gratitude as lifeblood, each new morning as a blessing. He talks of freudenfreude—that is, the opposite of schadenfreude, or “joy on joy,” as he puts it—less as a tool than as a weapon against a world that wants to diminish happiness, to compress it until it is controllable. On second thought, Talbot doesn’t actually say, speak, or talk much at all during TANGK, the totally righteous fifth album from his madcap truth-seekers, IDLES. Despite his reputation as an incendiary post-punk sparkplug, he sings almost all the feelings inside these 10 songs with hard-earned soul, offering each lusty vow or solidarity plea as a bona fide pop song—that is, a thing for everyone to pass around and share, communal anthems intended for overcoming our grievance.

 

In an explosive run of unerringly stirring albums, TANGK—pronounced “tank” with a whiff of the “g,” and an onomatopoeic reference to the lashing way he imagined the guitars sounding that has grown into a sort of sigil for living in love—is this band’s most ambitious and striking record yet. Where IDLES were once set on taking the world’s piss, squaring off with strong jaws against the perennially entitled, and exorcising personal trauma in real time, they have arrived in this new act to offer the fruits of such perseverance: love, joy, and indeed gratitude for the mere opportunity of existence. This music thrives not in spite of our problems but because of them. If we don’t look after ourselves and one another, all of TANGK seems to exclaim in one enormous hook after another, who will? “Keep my people up/That’s my tool,” Talbot snaps to end the first verse of the thrilling “POP POP POP.” Those people are all of us, Talbot included. These are impassioned notes to self: to keep going, to keep loving, to keep being.

 

A delicious and peculiar tension has long animated IDLES. Talbot has always been an impulsive force, a hip-hop enthusiast whose breathless lyrics take aim at all necessary targets. But Mark Bowen, the inveterate explorer for whom the label “guitarist” is woefully reductive, is contemplative and studied, endlessly interested in the production minutiae of, say, Aphex Twin or Sunn O))). The frisson of these dual perspectives has grown with IDLES, getting them from the raw scorn of Brutalism to the contorted compulsion of Crawler in only four years.

 

The contrast has never been more complete or compelling than it is here, on TANGK. Bowen paired off for multiple sessions with Nigel Godrich in his Brixton laboratory, learning the language of tape loops and using them to incubate new ideas for songs. (The opener, “IDEA 1,” indeed stems from their first session, dated October 2022.) It was paradisical for Bowen, going deep with Godrich to add texture to little nuanced themes. Talbot was there, too, but, as he offered input about the length of this loop or the mood of that one, he recognized that this was more like the preparation for his own takeoff. That would come in time.

 

“What Joe and I have realized as friends and co-songwriters is that we are almost the exact opposite person, in every way,” says Bowen, laughing. “There was a time we thought it was important to be of one mind, but we’re happier and better to become more different as we go.”

 

When the band arrived at a seaside retreat in the south of France with Godrich and Kenny Beats, who had helmed the Grammy-nominated Crawler, Talbot had written only three verses to the songs that would become TANGK on purpose. He knew what he wanted, after all: songs that would allow him to step to the microphone and deliver his gospel as he felt it in that moment, with the same intensity heroes Otis Redding or Lee Moses once deployed and the same gusto the band has on stage. He had plenty to power him, after all, from the stark state of the pandemic world and the death of his firstborn to his overwhelming love for his daughter and a joyous new romance. Talbot wanted to believe every word in that moment, to supply TANGK with the confidence of his real convictions.

 

“If you give people everything on stage, they’ll give you everything back. There’s no bullshit in our crowd, no lack of lucidity,” he says. “I wanted to bring that to a record. I’ve got more strength in me than I ever have, and it comes from love.” He attacked the microphone with all these feelings—“vulnerable/strong like bull,” as he himself captures that dichotomy in a canny rhyme. The strategy worked, supplying him with a kind of evangelical might.

 

A radical sense of defiant empowerment radiates from these songs. Lunging in the verses and arcing ever upward in the chorus, “Gift Horse” is a testament to redemption, to finding something or someone that makes the worries of the world feel not just tolerable but motivating. Sporting the biggest and most guileless hook in IDLES’ catalogue, “Roy” documents a surrender to infatuation and the way such an act can steel you from self-doubt, even making you feel immortal. And the skittering “Grace,” which slowly blooms like a rose cast in some unimagined psychedelic shade, discards the lure of generational nihilism for a more benevolent and unifying force: love. “No god, no king, I said love is the thing,” Talbot repeats, stepping down from the pedestal of his pearly falsetto to affirm his epiphany.

 

Make no mistake: IDLES have not softened on TANGK, musically or socially. “Hall And Oates” is a piece of hardcore shrapnel, with shrieking guitars and a battering-ram rhythm section hurling themselves in the direction of hope. Pulsing like a rock approximation of jungle music, “Jungle” is a classic IDLES fisticuffs, sneering at the judgements of authority figures and the way they cut our self-worth at the knees. “I lost myself again,” Talbot sings, looking for the band to pull him forward, toward salvation. They do. Adam Devonshire, John Beavis, and Lee Kiernan have made IDLES one of rock’s most powerful units for the last decade; they respond to these new prompts like the pistons of some sleek sports car. Godrich and Bowen made for an excellent tandem of foils to IDLES, too, pushing them into new terrain and then pulling the reins as needed. TANGK is at once sprawling and focused, imaginative and immediate.

 

“Dancer” is their throbbing and scuzzy number toward the center of TANGK, rattling bass and ricocheting guitar giving Talbot space to talk about sweat and sex on the dancefloor. (You will spy LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy and Nancy Whang here, too, singing.) It is lascivious and playful and positive, the ecstatic sound of at least a temporary fix. In the improvised hook, Talbot offers IDLES’ essential new mantra: “I give myself to you/As long as you move on the floor.”

 

He is singing about the rapture of a new relationship, but he is also singing about the special dynamic between IDLES and their fans, or IDLES and the world at large. This is a band’s vow to keep lifting and fighting for themselves and their listeners, to keep offering the grim persistence of joy and hope and love and wonder as long as that’s what anyone needs to survive. It is a love song the same way that TANGK is a love album—open to anyone who requires something to shout out loud in order to fend off any encroaching sense of the void, now or forever.

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