- 25 Sep 20
Bristol outfit return with defiantly political third album.
If there were fears that IDLES were going to tone down their trademark intensity with the arrival of mainstream success, rest assured – Brutalism and Joy As An Act Of Resistance were the warm-ups for what is undoubtedly their most urgent, direct and unapologetically political album yet.
Starting on a fearless footing with ‘War’, Ultra Mono immediately marks itself as a different beast than its predecessors, taking influence from the world of hip-hop – thanks to additional programming from in-demand producer Kenny Beats, who’s helped to reignite the spirit of punk among a new generation of American rappers. The approach to songwriting, much of which was done in the recording booth, also feels fresh. While it’s certainly not polished poetry, it’s not pretending to be, either – instead opting for raw self-expression and sincere vulnerability.
Of course, IDLES’ political anthems have never been praised for their subtlety – and on Ultra Mono, this lack of nuance is more blatant than ever. ‘Model Village’ is a simplified caricature of rural, pro-Brexit England, while ‘Ne Touche Pas Moi’ is the album’s designated anti-misogyny anthem, so on-the-nose that Joe Talbot literally screams ‘consent’ halfway through.
But alongside these earnest expressions, there has always been a good-natured self-awareness about IDLES – and accusations of “sloganeering” have become so integral to their identity that they knowingly reference it in a call-out to their “haters” on ‘The Lover’.
As the crises of the modern world continue to grow in intensity, so does the clarity of IDLES’ central anti-hate message. There is little time for clever word-play when the world is burning – nor is there time for subtleties, when real-life villains continue to polarise the masses. And behind Talbot’s rallying cry, album standout ‘A Hymn’ offers a glimpse into a complex man as confused as the rest of us: “I want to be loved/ Everybody does”.
There's no room for casual observers here.