Joy as an Act of Resistance by Idles – Album Review
By David Schuster
Every now and then a band comes along that captures the social atmosphere of their times: The Clash’s anthem to the media doom-mongering at the end of the Seventies, ‘London Calling’. Likewise, Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine’s song ‘Sheriff Fatman’, which highlighted state sanctioned slum landlords, getting rich on the misery of tenants with nowhere else to go. Joy as an Act of Resistance, the second album from Idles, is one such record.
“Difficult to categorise”
Nowhere is this ability to identify current issues clearer than in the lyrics of ‘Danny Nedelko’, a song which nicely sums up the dangerous spirit of intolerance currently being used as a political tool across much of the world. The verse deliberately uses those labels cleverly designed, by politico-psychologists, to highlight social differences. “My best friend is an alien. My best friend is a citizen”. Whilst the chorus shows where this segregation can easily end “Fear leads to panic, panic leads to pain. Pain leads to anger, anger leads to hate”. That this clever word play accompanies a brilliantly catchy, flat-out bouncing beat, makes this track something of a masterpiece.
Idles’ musical style is difficult to categorise, a statement which I think would please the band as they don’t agree with being described as Neo Punk. I’m going to go with Alt Punk, and some examples: The record starts dark and quiet, with Joe Talbot’s vocals giving ‘Colossus’ a feel similar to The Fall, as the sound slowly builds to a crescendo. This contrasts nicely with the frantic pace of the second track, ‘Never Fight a Man With a Perm’, which reminds me of Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’ but which lyrically has the pained graveyard humour of Leeds’s own The Wedding Present. “He said: These boots are made for stomping. And that’s just what they’ll do. One of these days these boots are going to stomp all over you”.
Like singer-songwriter Billy Bragg on a good day, Idles are clever enough to realise that it’s not necessary to be po-faced to deliver well aimed barbs at society’s short comings. The ironically named ‘I’m Scum’ points out the mainstream media’s obsession with celebrity, whilst missing the stories which affect the lives of many: “I don’t care about the next James Bond. He kills for country, Queen and God. We don’t need another murderous toff. I’m just wondering where the high street’s gone”. If that makes you think, well and good. If it doesn’t, then it’s still a damn good tune.
Joy as an Act of Resistance works on many levels; you can pogo your worries away to it, you can speed down the motorway with it rattling the speakers, or you can reflect on why you should ‘Never Fight a Man With a Perm’. Whichever, it’s likely that the songs will rattle around in your mind for a long time afterwards. This is an album that will still be being played decades from now.