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.
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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