Idles’ debut album Brutalism is a ferocious, blood-covered, sweat-drenched record that feels utterly vital to our survival through 2017.
My whole life up to this point has been shaped by Bristol. Its nightlife, its people, and especially its music venues and local bands. In a city where so few musicians ever make it, Idles have always been there, always trying to break their way out. They have grafted hard in Bristol, both at the huge number of gigs they’ve played, and in refining their sound. Chances are if you’ve ever been to a gig at the Exchange or the Lousiana then you’ve been served a pint by a member of the band.
The first time I heard Idles, two of my mates had watched them after sixth form on a whim at the Louisiana, then I heard their track ‘Queens’ played at a club night on the bottom deck of Thekla. If you’ve ever heard that track, you’ll understand my sheer delight that it got played in a club.
Since then I’ve been an avid follower of the band myself, listening to their EPs and watching their frenetic live shows, which are always loaded with energy and ready to burst at any point. Idles have had a long time to perfect this controlled demolition, an onstage presence that very few bands today possess. The release of their debut album Brutalism marks a turning point, a statement of intent. For Idles, this has been a long time coming.
Brutalism opens at breakneck speed, and rarely slows down. ‘Heel/Heal’ is just a sample of what is to follow in the album, with a tonne of feedback and build-ups reminiscent of Girl Band. ‘Well Done’ is up next, arguably one of the greatest singles of last year, and it still sounds as aggressive and unhinged as it did the first time around.
‘Mother’ is a highlight and has been stuck in my head ever since hearing it for the first time in Bristol last year. This track resonates strongly and feels like an ode to the selfless strength of a mother’s love, as well as an attack on those who are handed everything on a silver platter. “The best way to scare a Tory is to read and get rich” is the best lyric you’re likely to hear this year.
‘Divide and Conquer’ divides sides A and B of Brutalism perfectly, a snarling, building, sinister looping track that leads aggressively into the second half. Another highlight of the album, ‘Exeter’ will undoubtedly make a great single and a live favourite. Brutalism closes with ‘Slow Savage’ a track that is still loaded with the same hatred that occupies the rest of the album, but now the pace is slower, and the story moves from outward hatred to the loathing within, as frontman Joe Talbot howls “I’m the worst lover you’ll ever have.” Idles is a labour of love for him, and by the time this record finishes, you can tell that each member of the band has poured their blood, sweat and tears into this project.
Brutalism is a blistering debut, full of gripping energy. The praise that Idles have been receiving is fully deserved, and in 2017, we’ve never needed them more. Replay the album to death, catch them live at every opportunity. It’s time Bristol had some new musical champions, and Idles are certainly worthy of that title. Covered in blood, it’s theirs for the taking. 5/5