Punk is back. It’s brutal, insane and filled with more angst than ever before. Bristol legends IDLES have returned with their second full length release, Joy As An Act Of Resistance, a record which I’m already willing to call, with little to no hesitation, album of the year.
In a time where political corruption, mass austerity and a general sense of disgust towards the majority of humanity has taken over, punk has long needed a figurehead to take the reins and capture the emotion of an entire nation. IDLES have not only stepped up to that role, but have done so with flying colours. Whilst their last album, Brutalism, was able to spark the new punk movement to rally the masses, just one year on, it already feels like the flames of revolution have started to rise.
Tackling everything from toxic masculinity, Brexit, and racism, the band have perfectly captured a moment in time where opinions flowing in the UK are in turmoil. As soon as the opening notes of ‘Colossus’ begin, it’s immediately clear that IDLES have in no way diluted their sound after finding so much success over the past year. It’s muddy, dirty and leaves a foul taste of blood in your mouth, in the best way possible. Once again, it is vocalist Joe Talbot whose eye opening and brutally honest lyricism truly brings IDLES’ music to life and I would even go so far as to say he can be noted as one of the strongest lyricists of the 21st century. The record’s initial numbers such as ‘Never Fight A Man With A Perm’, ‘I’m Scum’ and ‘Danny Nedelko’ all create a sense of immediate chaos which will see fists flying across venue mosh pits, with the latter holding a genius narrative of finding love towards your fellow man, despite the ongoing tirade of xenophobia which can be seen throughout the country at the moment.
As we proceed through the record, we’re introduced to what has to be one of the single most heart breaking and emotionally raw tracks that has ever been written. This isn’t said lightly, as ‘June’ is unquestionably a song of unimaginable heartbreak. Written about Joe’s daughter who died at birth, the track is a reminder of the fragility of life and the devastation left behind. The particularly harrowing repeated lyric taken from a work of Ernest Hemingway: “Baby shoes. For sale. Never worn,” tears through the listen with nothing but raw emotion and leaves a sickening feeling in your stomach. It is this level of brutal honesty and human authenticity which creates the true meaning of music. Whilst we typically only get to see the angry side of punk, it is songs like this which act as another reminder that life isn’t all about getting frustrated at society, it’s about the people around you: loved ones and being there to support one another. A beautiful tribute which will not go unnoticed.
Perhaps one of IDLES’ other most impressive traits, though, is their ability to bring together generations of completely different eras: past punks and new generational lovers all seem to adore this band, feeling like the first real breath of fresh air into the scene since the initial 70s movement. Perhaps this is due to not only the raw sound that the rest of the band create, but the clever level of intricacy and relatable feeling of Joe’s lyricism, which brings forth not only the political issues at hand, but seamlessly belittles them all with modern pop culture references that younger generations can still get on board with and see the irony in. Whether it be from Toy Story or Harry Potter, Joe’s ability to bring punk into the modern age is admirable in every sense of the word.
All in all, Joy As An Act Of Resistance is the big middle finger that the world needs right now and the perfect second instalment to IDLES’ already incredible career. There is no denying that punk is in the air, it’s living, breathing and becoming harder to ignore every day. The world may be a scary place at the moment and there is no doubt that things are going to change, but not for IDLES. They need to continue exactly what they are doing, because it will be them at the forefront of the movement, and when the people unite, Joy As An Act Of Resistance will be their soundtrack.