Although a somewhat new band, Idles, in just four albums have become one of the most interesting, chaotic and politically driven bands of the Aughts and beyond. During Covid lockdown I became enamored with the band, diving headfirst into their discography with furious abandon and energetic movements accompanying the frenzied music. I hope you’ll enjoy this look into what I consider to be the Bristol England legends best songs. Enjoy!
10 REIGNS: ULTRA MONO
I’m not sure if you’d call this punk, post punk, or anything, but I know this song, not to mention the entire album, has the ability to give energy that motivates its listener to chant, stomp and raise their fists in calculated anger. Singer Joe Talbot’s throaty vocals and annoyed intensity build the song in an immediate and punishing manner, while the drums add to the chaos and bombastic nature of the song. It’s a track that very much feels like it belongs in the year it was created, 2020, and the anger simmering and eventually bubbling out is all the more proof of its potency, even now two years later.
9 ROTTWEILER: JOY AS AN ACT OF RESISTANCE
Not to say that every song isn’t thoughtful as well as intense, but few match the rage present on this roughly named track. It just fits so well with the overall messaging of the band. Musically it’s not quite post rock, but the antagonist spirit in singer Joe Talbot makes the song joyous to move to. That same idea of joy as resistance is full force in this nearly six minute rabble rouser of a song, and with the added intensity from guitarists Bowen and Kieran the heaviness of the track keeps growing as Talbot expounds, and as Jon Beavis kills it on the drums, which are amazing. The band closed with this song when I saw them, which is a fitting finale to an epic punk show.
8 MR. MOTIVATOR: ULTRA MONO
When first getting into this group of warriors, “Mr. Motivator” as it’s called was an early stand out track. The usage of celebrities' names in the playful wordplay style of Talbot stands out and paints often hilarious imagery of the names dropped during its duration. Beyond the lyrics the drumming from Jon B (I hate writing his last name, just feel bad for the guy) is stellar, with punishing galore as the song careens into a spectacular finish of brutality and angst.
7 CAR CRASH: CRAWLER
As far as technicalities go, this very much not a Hip hop song sound very much to me like what would happen if Idles tried to write a hip hop song. The bass and reverb coming from the speakers are heavily distorted in a classic hip hop manner, not to mention the cadence used when Talbot the vocalist is harping unapologetically on his human conditioning, as well as acting like a destroyer lyrically as he describes himself as a “Car Crash.”
6 THE BEACHLAND BALLROOM: CRAWLER
At first listen this could easily seem like the men of Idles were attempting to construct a crooning love song. Unless you decided to dismiss the lyrics you may have thought it was a love song. But then once you factor in the vocals, all bets are off. Talbot wails for minutes about the agony of what I assume is a failed relationship. The imagery of torment present does little to fight that concept, but among their four current records, there’s something very refreshing and poignant about this bitterly cold song.
5 DIVIDE & CONQUER: BRUTALISM
It’s not often enough that I get to use the phrase “approaching destruction,” but the guitar part by Bowden speaks to me like a film where bad guys are walking powerfully, surveying their destruction. The only difference here is the lyrics are motivated by corruption and greed, with the underlying message being how us normal folks are often pitted against each other as the shorty elite force their wills on us.
4 COLOSSUS: JOY AS AN ACT OF RESISTANCE
A few months ago I went with a buddy to see Idles here in Denver, and as the opening moments of this song, aptly named “Colossus,'' I knew the show would be something special. It has that classic slow build that serves as a perfect album or show openers. The drumming is exactly and time sensitive to the growing power of the guitars at play. It’s better live than it is on record, but the energy expelled by this quintet is deliberate, sturdy, and furiously angry at the world left for us. A perfect song for releasing energy.
3 NE TOUCHÉ PAS MOI: ULTRA MONO
Probably my favorite song from the often lauded, yet misunderstood tongue in cheek record “Ultra Mono.” The song, whose title translates to “Don’t Touch Me,” is a in your face slugger featuring Johnny Beth of Savages fame. Her vocals add an unusual style of ferocity that only she’s capable of, yet at its core the song relays on message over and over again. The idea of body autonomy is large here, and if you can’t get past the “Consent” chant in the song, you haven’t been paying attention.
2 MOTHER: BRUTALISM
Another track about struggle, “Mother” lands at number two on our Idles Top 10. The song itself fumes with volatile ramblings of the increasing need for less tolerance in the world to things like violence and sexual abuse, while also pounding in the idea that the cowardice votes of conservatives often stands in judgement of people seeking out something better, and trying to become more enlightened in a world that increasing hates shades of grey. Idles simply shine a light on the hypocrisy of the ideas of “rules for thee, not for me, which is something every “Tory,” or GOP member is in love with. In short, if you don’t have an open mind, Idles is not the band for you.
1 NEVER FIGHT A MAN WITH A PERM: JOY AS AN ACT OF RESISTANCE
Sure, the title of the song is hilarious and memorable, but underneath it’s playful name is a song brimming with more macho man than Randy Savage himself. It’s a slap in the face to every wanna be tough guy out there. You know the type. Regardless, the guitar sections are hostile and alarming, while the robustly in your face lyrics by Talbot offer even more levity while discussing unfunny topics. Again the wordplay is brilliantly executed here, not to mention the usage of a phrase “You like look a walking thyroid,” is sorely missing from music, until now that is. Live the song is a rally call for dancing and fists in the airX and it’s even a banger if you’re driving in your car. Full of energy, “Perm” stands as the best Idles song. Thanks for reading.
As a band approaches their third, and even fourth decade, they usually start to dwindle in quality, surviving off the often vast catalog of hits they may have created during that time. For Pearl Jam, who’s long weird journey began in 1990, being a band in their 30’s has only made them more independent and aware of what works. They still play 3 hour sets each night, often with a drastically different setlist than the nights before and after. Today we share the Top Five records by Pearl Jam. This list features some stuff you’ll immediately recognize, and some you aren’t as well versed in. Thanks for reading!
5 VITALOGY (1994)
We start our countdown with a record from the early days when Pearl Jam as a unit went to war with Ticketmaster and all the chaos and change that forced. By the band's third record, they were arguably the biggest rock band around, but with the Ticketmaster controversy still happening, the band found themselves up against a wall, commercially. “Vitalogy” kicks off with rockers in the shape of “Last Exit” and the punk rock tinges of “Spin the Black Circle.” Still, there’s plenty of emotionally raw numbers for the emotional PJ fans. Case in point, “Nothingman,” with its slow, somber, and wonderful narrative. The vocals are day dreams of an abandoned illusion consisting of what dreams we chose to forget and not pursue. It’s this emotional pull and push that makes the song so beautifully tragic. Songs like that stand musically apart from tracks like “Corduroy” or the haunting consistently of “Tremor Christ,” that ramp up the musical intensity. But then you get songs like the utterly odd “Bugs” thrown in while also including “Immortality.” Give it a listen soon, it's better than you remember.
4 NO CODE (1996)
Even among the hardcore PJ fans I’ve met, it’s rare to hear this being ladued as one of their best, but “No Code.” to me is the brilliance coming out from darkness in a manner most wouldn’t expect from the Seattle titans. The opener is slow yes, which helps once you get to the rocking “Hail Hail,” all the way to the blink and you’ll miss it “Lukin.” There’s also plenty of epic moments throughout. “Present tense” is a master stroke of alternative brilliance, with the lyrical component being serene but also eye opening. The album overall wasn’t as commercially successful, which is strange given its content, but everyone has an overlooked album. It's not quite to the level of, say, a “Pinkerton'' (the early Weezer album that was initially dismissed by fans) but still, it's hard for me to understand why this one didn’t do as well. Sure the hits aren’t as soaring and obvious, but tracks like “In My Tree,”with its tribal drum beat and Vedder's wide ranging voice, prove that the record isn’t one to be missed. I’ve fallen in love heavy with this record in the last year or so, and continue to hope everyone will give it another chance.
3 VS. (1993)
From the opening moments of “Vs.” all the way until the conclusion of “Indifference” there’s a certain gritty danger permeating through this record. That danger morphs and changes as the record goes, with “Daughter” being one of the more gentle sounding songs, even if it’s only musically tender and not lyrically gentle. Tracks like “Animal” and album opener “Go” both have that raw energy coasting through them, but then you have a track like “Elderly Woman…” which showcases the anger and reservations of never leaving a small town like so many others who gave up on experiencing the world. On the other end of that, there are songs like “Blood” and “Leash” that are as aggressive as the band gets during the 45 or so minute runtime of the record. Overall the record delivers in different ways than its blockbuster predecessor, but it’s way more immediate in movement than their debut was, and you can tell the time between records, albeit small, did help to make the band better than they were before, even if the record didn’t end up being as perfect or popular as “Ten.” When listening to songs like like the earlier mentioned “Blood” you feel vindicated in battle, as if you’re fighting with every fiber of your life, while during selections like the classic “Rearviewmirror” you feel the need to figuratively haul ass away from the dangers of the present, bracing for change. All of this encompasses the struggles and action among the band to strive to be their best.
2 YIELD (1998)
In 98 I was just figuring out my love of not just rock but metal and other varieties, but I’ll always remember getting this one random Sunday at a backwoods walmart I happened to be in with my mom. I loved “Brain of J” and the harsh reality of change it put in the forefront. The song obviously is a pointed look at the death of President Kennedy, but it's also written from the perspective of a person who grew up without seminal events happening just before his arrival, growing up in a different world than the one his parents mentioned. The album feels more sentimental than many of their others to me as well, with songs like “Given to Fly” being a sort of life affirming moment you can only get from good ole’ american rock music. The one two punch of “Given” and “Wishlist” also earmark the band as truly American in their attitudes, loves and philosophies. Next to Tom Petty maybe, I can’t think of a band better suited to address the woes of modern blue collar Americans, even if they are rich these days. “Yield” as a record has this ability to settle you while discussing the harsh realities of our world. It even knows when to be sarcastic in the form of a rant known as “Do the Evolution,” which again thumbs its nose at our constructs and institutions. Track after track is stellar, concluding with rockers like “MFC,” anthems in the way of “In Hiding,” and plenty of other memorables tracks. Also, having Matt Cameron of Soundgarden fame join the fold really helped things along in terms of creativity.
1 TEN (1991)
What can you really say about “Ten” at this point that hasn’t been stated before? Mostly nothing, except that it’s just as good, Maybe better than you remember. When I began writing this, I was fairly certain my number two choice, “Vs.” was going to be the number one. That is, until I actually listened to “Ten” for the first time in god knows how many years. What I found was that not only have certain songs become more relevant than ever, but also songs that have more emotion running through them than your average rock band. From the start it’s clear Vedder wore his massive heart on his sleeve. Songs like “Alive” deal with the pain only family’s can provide, while opener “Once” flies above the real world Problems inherent in the lyrics. Then you have tracks like the ominous and heartbreaking “Black,” not to mention the now commonly occurring themes that make “Jeremy” all the more terrifying and eye opening. Many times listening to “Ten” I felt that familiar connection to the lyrical content simmering throughout “Tens” duration. It’s not only one of the best rock albums of the still getting farther away 90’s, but also the best collection of songs the five Piece of Seattle has ever conjured up. Thanks for reading!
Since early on in their career, the Arcade Fire have been a band worth watching, more or less. With their first three albums they became stars, and though they’ve suffered slightly from some not perfect records, the “Suburbs” still stands as an indie triumph in the shadow of glitzy pop and rap. Today, we’re going to discuss my personal favorite, the critically acclaimed third album “ The Suburbs.” Enjoy.
From the announcement of the album’s name and the slow leak of songs that were presented, you could tell this was going to be another lesson in how to craft an album that bridges the gap between indie rock and epic arena rock. Arcade Fire is so good at shaping an album into what they want to create at this point that It should be a crime, and many of their records are full of emotional turmoil, and the importance of coming of age. “The Suburbs” is no different. The first song, which also happens to be the title track, opens us up to a very realistic world. It’s a slow kind of Sunday song. The band has mentioned this album was inspired and imagined on a trip that Win and wife Regine took all over the country, just driving around. You can feel that on the full length of the record. It's the sort of free spirited album every generation coming into the world should have.
The music is steady, and Win Butler’s use of piano is the perfect undertone for the start of this album.Listening to the opening track you can tell it’s very much a road record. The winding opening of “The Suburbs” sets the stage for a driving record that is at times both peaceful and beautiful, as well as dark and sinister. From there we’re treated to the hurried, shimmering darkness of “Ready to Start.” I’ve always thought of the first song as a little teaser and an intro to the rest of the album, and the buildup and feel of the second song doesn’t do much to discourage that idea in my head.
The great thing about this band is their ability to make songs that are at once pushing their sound in a new direction and reminding you of where they were previously. “Ready to Start” is easily recognizable as an Arcade Fire song. At times in the music the listener gets the vibe present throughout their Sophomore release “Neon Bible.” The whole song is quintessential AF. Furthermore, “Ready to Start” the second song in a perfect row of 5 great songs. Don’t get me wrong; the album is remarkable, but the first 5 songs are so impressively strong that it really builds the momentum and helps the rest of the album evolve and open eyes.
By “Modern Man” and “Rococo” you start to see the themes of the album building into one cohesive vision. I’ve mentioned this before, but the album to me is about the death of innocence. The struggles of this “Modern Man” are easy to relate to because we are all these people. You’re taught as a youngster growing up that everyone is special in their own way, but when we grow up we quickly realize that we’re not all special, and some of us are doomed for mediocrity. The band themselves are able to make music that is so thoughtful and powerful that you really at times forget that they weren’t always so prolific in the quality of output.
One of my favorite songs on the album is the feverish, and crazed “Empty Room.” From the violent violin opening to the immediate pace, this song is a rocker in a very unrocking way. Regine, finally allowing us to hear her voice on this recording, is frantically singing about the perils of growing up and the safety many of us have felt inside the four walls that make up our room. This is a clear example of the band making a lot of focused noise. At times you might think they’re losing control of the music, but not only is the music coming out of them so fast, they are mastering it and are growing in leaps and bounds as the thick, dense sounds exit their bodies. From then we’re immediately thrust into the Springsteen-esque “City of No Children.” The lyrics here are as good at telling a story as any other song on the album, and it’s a perfect entrance to the middle of the record, which is full of weight and meat.
This album came out three years after the previous record “Neon Bible.” Now, while the band did tour quite a bit for Bible, the growing success they were finding was instrumental in the band wanting to take some time away and grow as artists. You can absolutely tell the amount of structure and overall power that this band had gained during the down time between albums. Songs like “ Half Light 1 & 2” are place holders for the momentum, and they manage to marry the concepts on this album.
On one hand you have the knowledge of knowing that your once youthful passion may have been misplaced because you didn’t know what the world actually had to offer, but on the other hand, at least you got to experience it. You’re likely a better person. Sometimes it’s a good thing to put your faith in things you aren’t sure about.
In these types of writings, I’ve tried hard to give a detailed but less song oriented structure to the pieces, but when the album is this amazing, it’s hard not to discuss everything you’re hearing. That’s the power of this album. You can’t help but feel like you’re part of something when Win Butler is echoing his pain about things “Have changed so much since I was a little child” in the finale of “Half Light II(Celebration). Trust me, this isn’t a wonderfully happy record, but the power and weight behind the words are unifying and powerful in a very cathartic way.
The album then switches gears a bit and brings us to the one two sequence of “Suburban War” and the thick, heavy sounds of “Month of May.” “War” whirls down a slow, pretty path and again the pain is palpable in Butler's voice as well as the instruments of the other band members. One of my favorite parts of the entire album is the shifting of gears that occurs at the end of this track. I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s just a flood of sound and the vocals are as haunting and ethereal as you’ve ever heard in an Arcade Fire album.
From then we’re abruptly thrust into the “Month Of May.” This has to be one of the best and more overtly aggressive songs in the band's whole catalog. When I first heard it I couldn’t believe it was the same band. It’s easily the closest this band has ever gotten to punk rock. The drums and guitar are so forceful and strong that you almost lose track of the general concept behind the song. But in the end it’s ok, because the song perfectly kicks ass and takes names in the way this band hadn’t done previously.
One of the best little tricks of the album is its reuse of lyrics. “Month of May” and “ Wasted Hours” are the best examples. “First they built the roads then they built the town” are both used and also used in different ways. “Wasted Hours” has all the gorgeous tones of classic Arcade Fire. It might be the most open song on the album. When vocalist Butler wants to lay it on in an emotional way, he knows exactly what to do. This album has stayed so strong in my head because of this ability. It’s the perfect album for the moments when I think about my developmental years. Kids would drive around for hours, hoping confidently for a bright future. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes you wake up years later and it’s awash in a mist of troubles and failures. That for me is the concept behind the “Suburbs.”
“We Used to Wait” is a solid start to the last chapter of this album. The piano is great here, and although the tempo doesn’t really pick up until the conclusion, it’s a very good song that goes hand in hand with the tracks that both follow it and came before it. From here we venture back to the suburbs for the modern-day of the Sprawls. “Sprawls I(Flatland)” is a hauntingly painful song. It stinks of the failures we’ve discussed earlier. The pain behind Butler's voice here is the most clear they are the whole album. This leads us into what is quite possibly the strongest song the band has ever written.
“Sprawls II(Mountains Beyond Mountains)”has a very retro 80’s vibe to it, and you can clearly hear the makings of styles that would become the basis for the next album. It’s a down beat but danceable. Like the rest of the album, it contains moments of freedom and feeling invincible. Also contained are clear-cut downers about the realities of life outside of the “Suburbs.” Regine’s voice soars on the track, and it’s clear to see why it was such a joining song for the band. They’re all at their best here, and Regine especially hits it out of the park with her unique but beautiful singing.
The album closer is a slow reminder of where we began. “The Suburbs(Continued)” is a slow but appropriate down wind sound that wraps up the album. As a person who loves adventures and overwhelmingly positive experiences, the lyrics “If I could have it back, all the time that we Wasted, I’d only waste it again” speaks to the free spirit inside many of us that loves for the responsibilities and rewards that come with adulthood, but also yearns for the time when this were beautiful and everything worked out. For us, that was in “The Suburbs.”
Where do you begin with an article called “The Rise and Fall” of anything? Well, for this writer, it starts here: while there was a time when not only was Kanye West the best musician performing, but he seemed mildly reasonable. That time is long past though. Either way, this will not be a celebration of who West is as a performer, as a man, and as a celebrity. It will be the opposite of praise, and if you’re uncomfortable with that, I apologize and suggest you realize who West actually is.
For many, including myself, Hurricane Katrina was when i first deftly acknowledged West as a man intent on staying whatever the fuck he was inspired to. It was refreshing, yes, but it showed a propensity for outlandish statements just for the sake of an outlandish statement. West knew exactly what he was doung, and while its definitely true that George Bush doesnt give a fuck about black people, it was a genuis move to keep his name in the news right before a huge solo album was entering the world.
With that statement, Kanye West had arrived, to the point Even my mom spitefully knew who he was after that. You also had the mouthshut vocal range West produced on the breakout track “Through the wire” to show you this was someone was something special
When I think of this man's career, five things stand out to me, which we’ll be discussing further in this space. For years, West had positioned himself as a sounding board for what forward thinking hip hop could be. Every album released during his massive popularity rise was a classic. The Graduation trilogy as its known put KW on the map, with classic bangers like “Jesus Walks,” “All Falls Down,” and of course, the song of that summer, “Gold Digger.” It was all infectious, and his genius was obvious. This was long before records like “Pablo” started to fray the edges of his genius with more and more self observed misses like “Famous.” Before that however, we got “My Dark Beautiful Twisted Fantasy.”
This album is so strong from start to finish that its damn near impossible to truncate it into a post that’s not an in depth look at every song. I’ll try my best though.
Let’s start with the multitude of guests on this record. It’s staggering and the various voices force West not only to bring his A game, but it also sets the tone of of unpredictably that finds the listener at every song. Guests like Jay, Rihanna, Raekwon from the 36 Chambers respectfully shows up, as do Rick Ross, Kid Cudi, Nicki Minaj, John Legend, and dark horses like Chris Rock( who’s monologue at the end Blame Game is hilarious and raunchy) and Bon Iver's Justin Vernon all show up and give their best in function of West’s vision.
An early cut like “All of the Lights” is a triumph of hip hop history, and while I rarely like solo Rihanna, this is another example of how great she is as a guest star. Then you have a song like “Runaway,” which is a nine minute monolith of music that displays and blows away anything he’s done before or since. The way the track uses the minimal beats early on and grows and builds from their is quite simply brilliant musicianship.
It’s recommended listening as you need to listen to this record all the way to fully immerse yourself in the darkness West has composed for us, because it works best as one singular piece as opposed to different tracks for different days. It runs the gamut of musical imagination, and it’s for that reason this stands as the best work of Mr. West's career, so far at least.
After “MBDTF” sent everyone into a tailspin, Yeezus was a complete flip of the script in how West compelled and produced an album. Rumors swirled for months that the production of the record was a mess, but after getting much needed guidance from the incomparable Rick Rubin and slimming the record down drastically to the ten songs that formed the album, it’s hard to say it wasn’t worth it.
From the early moments of tracks like “Black Skinhead,” which finds West again working with Daft Punk and putting white people on notice for practices that we as a people might not even know is wrong. It’s a great mindset though when an artist is angry but also willing to not shy away from difficult issues. The whole album is easily the most aggressive and angry of his catalogue, but it’s also his most potent in terms of originality. “Yeezus” also shows that he can carry an album with minimal guests(unlike the other records, not to say it’s a bad thing) as he circumvents his critiques of culture with unrelenting songs like “New Slaves” and the eye opening sincerity and pain behind “Blood on the Leaves.”
You may be wondering how we bridge the gap between genius West and whatever he is now, which is certainly nowhere near genius level. It all starts with his mom, Donda, who sadly passed during plastic surgery, and if you know anything about KW, you know his mother was everything to him. She was a sounding board, and when she left, a lot of that genius he possessed started to fade as well. It’s hard not to relate to that loss in a significant way, but it’s even sadder when you see the drastic change in Kanye the performer, and the person.
Two of the biggest issues are his associations for the last five years or so, as West has consistently shown the public a few very important things. One, that you can be a brilliant artist while not being a good person. Two, he’s a person capable of making the ultra up their own ass, self -importance of Kim Kardashian seems somehow normal and in need of support, when in fact she’s neither. She’s still the same horrible human being we’ve always known, but it’s to be applauded at how “normal” she seems when compared to the behaviors of her ex-husband.
In short, Kanye was once a legend, now, in his current parish phase, it’s hard to find much worth celebrating. Hopefully that change is coming, but we shall see.
Landon Murray is a music connooisseur who craves sounds of all shapes and textures. He's seen over 2000 bands and looks forward to welcoming you into his world of sound,
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