The best art is believable. It doesn’t matter if it’s Monet or Mozart, Emin or Eminem, Stormzy or Stravinsky; usually the rebels who do have a cause have the largest and longest-lasting effect. Bristol five-piece Idles’ second album Joy as An Act of Resistance gives you something to believe in, delivering gut punch after gut punch to give you the most glorious beating of your life.
Brutalism, their 2017 debut, was incredibly well received but there’s no sign of sophomore slump here. The thick layers of guitar and vocals in the second half of opening track ‘Colossus’ give the impression of a band who want to make as much noise as they can, however the drum and bass guitar-lead ‘I’m Scum’ are surprisingly danceable, with a jaunty guitar lick butting in every time frontman Joe Talbot announces that, well, he’s scum. On ‘Television’, he delivers the line ‘Love Yourself’ with the sort of bullish assurance that makes Danny Dyer sound like Milhouse Van Houten. Elsewhere, unseasonable darkness sets in in ‘June’ where the lyrics, “a stillborn was still born, I am a father” and “baby’s shoes for sale: never worn” are repeated. It’s all the more powerful for its limited and repetitive approach.
But lyrically, the album’s most prevalent quality is humour. “I’m sorry your Grandad’s dead… ahhh… lovely spread”, begins ‘Gram Rock’. In some cases a defence mechanism as much as a tool of language, there’s a lot of topics which are tackled tongue-in-cheek. It’s typical of a punk genre which had its heyday 40 years ago, but with political unrest comes artistic backlash once again. That spirit running through Idles’ veins has never felt more necessary than today.
The state of Britain is tackled on the catchy ‘Danny Nedelko’, which features the line, “Fear leads to panic, panic leads to pain, pain leads to anger, anger leads to hate”. But on anti-Brexit tirade ‘Great’, the comedy specs are back on again:
“Blighty wants his country back
Fifty-inch screen in his cul-de-sac
Whooping charm of the union jack
As he cries at the price of a bacon bap”
Such visual social commentary may not be considered eloquent, but neither is the divide that exists in this country right now. Each song feels incredibly relevant, keeping you gripped as characters and stories unfold line by line. Even when Talbot sings, “ten points to Gryffindor” repeatedly, sounding like he’s scripting a new Rowntree’s fucking Randoms advert, such is the conviction with which it is delivered you’ll feel it’s your problem to figure it out rather than his for singing it.
It’s in the vocals, but it’s also in the pounding drums, the frantic guitar, the driving bass; Joy as An Act of Resistance is a collection of the most intense and believable music you’ll hear in a long time. By the time you’re being told to burn your house down in final track ‘Rottweiler’, you’ll feel like anything is still possible. It barely even matters what they’re saying. They’re going to save your world.