- 23 Oct 18
Earlier this year, with the release of their second album Joy Is An Act Of Resistance, Idles secured their spot as one of the most exciting bands in modern Britain. The ferocity of their music – which is a sort of off-shoot of punk rock but punk rock like you’ve never heard it before – is matched only by their unabashedly upbeat, positive social message.
Having been given the upgrade from Whelan’s to The Button Factory because of the high demand for their Dublin show, it’s plain to see that Irish audiences have latched on to Idles in a big way.
Entering the stage to the overture of ‘Colossus’ - the first song from the band’s new album - lead singer Joe Talbot paces the stage like he’s warming up for 12 rounds in the ring. To extend the metaphor, lead guitarist Mark Bowen looks like one of those old-time knuckle boxers with the handlebar moustache. They’re in fighting form, basically. The song itself is a monumental opener, which builds from its sinister drumbeats and repetitions of ‘Goes and it goes and it goes!’ to the breakdown, where the band rail against toxic masculinity (‘I don’t wanna be your man’) and discrimination (‘I’m like Stone Cold Steve Austen!/I put homophobes in coffins!’).
The tone is set nicely for the evening. They follow up with ‘Never Fight A Man With A Perm’, which has arguably has the band’s best lyrics (‘You look like a walking thyroid/You're not a man, you're a gland/You're one big neck with sausage hands’), and keep up the relentless, pummelling riffs for ‘Mother’ – a song so hard-edged in its leftyism and feminism that it’d make any Middle English Tory or sexual abuser shit themselves on hearing it.
What makes Idles so refreshing is that they're categorical in their messages. “The NHS is the best thing to ever happen to Britain,” declares Joe Talbot before ‘Divide and Conquer’; immigrants are “beautiful”, he reminds us in ‘Danny Nedelko’; men shouldn’t be afraid to cry and share their feelings, he reasons in ‘Samaritans’; and the assertion that “Brexit is fucking terrible” is spat from the jungle bassline of ‘G.R.E.A.T’ at the belligerent group of ‘No' voters back home who don’t want to admit that something is very, very wrong with 'Great' Britain.
It’s “a sort of off-shoot of punk rock” because the riffs and the raw, live energy might be familiar, but there’s no other punk gig in the world where you’re going to leave feeling like you’re self-esteem has been given a boost, or that you want to go out and help save the world or something. There’s also few punk gigs where you’d have a crowd who are so hospitable, where you’d have women crowd-surfing, safe in the knowledge that if anyone tried to get handsy or pull anything untoward, they’d rightly get their head knocked in.
On the matter of crowd-surfing, there’s a stage invasion during ‘Exeter’, an early track from the band’s first album Brutalism. It’s a mad scene, which ends with Joe Talbot parachuting about 20 or 30 people from the stage back into the crowd like some manic skydive instructor.
The night ends with the twin-loaded shotgun of a “fuck you” to class division on ‘Well Done’ and a “fuck you” to The Sun newspaper on ‘Rottweiler’. The band don’t do encores “cause they’re weird”. They don’t need to. They’ve thrown everything at The Button Factory over the space of 90 minutes and the frenzied, moshing, exhilarated crowd has probably been bruised and battered enough for one night…
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