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IDLES : F The System!

By Shelly Ridenour |

After toiling in obscurity for nearly a decade, the Bristol, England, band Idles broke through in 2017—earning accolades for their big, heavy, ferocious sound and lyrics railing against toxic masculinity, white privilege and over-reaching government.

In 2020, with their third album, IDLES are not saying anything many people aren't already feeling, but there's something undeniably cathartic about saying it with such fury: Sometimes it's just enough to yell out "This means war! Anti-war!" while klaxon guitars wail on the song War, or Consent! Consent! Consent! Consent!" on Ne Touche Pas Moi. Tapping into the Western world's emotional disorder of the moment, Anxiety spits: "Our government hates the poor/ Cold leaders' cold class war/ Given drugs you can't afford/ So the poor can't buy the cure."

That reliable old chestnut of a punching bag, the British royal family, makes plenty of appearances, including on the sonar-warp Reigns. "I'm guessing it is hard for you to see, that that that that empathy will kick down your throne", Talbot heckles the Windsors on Kill Them With Kindness, which opens with a pretty jewel-box tune before sliding sideways into appealingly funky, Jesus Lizard-esque guitar and a strutting beat.

And here's the thing: While Talbot gets all the front-man attention, it's the musicians who really shock and awe. Guitarists Lee Kiernan and Mark Bowen create a dialogue of needling Wire-esque riffs on the irresistible Model Village ("Model low crime rate in the village/ Model race, model hate, model village", Talbot rails against mindless patriotism).

Drummer Jon Beavis and bassist Adam Devonshire tattoo relentless, and relentlessly catchy, rhythm on tracks like Anxiety and Grounds ("Not a single thing has ever been mended/ by you standing there and saying you're offended", Talbot jeers on that one, taking a swipe at the trend of virtue-signaling).

Mr. Motivator rides a wave of racing guitar and gun-shot drums to underscore Talbot's battle cry: "Let's seize the day/ all hold hands/ chase the pricks away". Absurdly coupling toxic masculinity and feminist power, Talbot chants,"Like Conor McGregor with a samurai sword on rollerblades/ Like Vasyl Lomachenko after four pints of Gatorade/ Like Kathleen Hanna with bear claws grabbing Trump by the pussy … Like Frida Kahlo painting 'arm the poor' on your fuck-off wall". Then he follows it all up with a wink: "How do you like them clichés?" And when things take a wild left turn with A Hymn—haunted by spooky, hazy guitars and droning lyrics—it's like everything goes out of focus for a minute. The change in perspective is not just a breather, it's a peek into what more these hard-chargers can offer.


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