PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

Photo: Tom Ham / Courtesy of Partisan Records

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.

Ultra Mono
IDLES

Partisan

25 September 2020

IDLES don't care what you think. Or at least they don't care what you think about them. Or they care enough to make sure you know they don't care. After a couple stunning punk albums (most notably 2018's Joy As an Act of Resistance), the band found their natural backlash. It seems that Joe Talbot isn't Joe Strummer (as if that's what anyone was looking for), and rage and defiance are still subject to particular codes. IDLES, though, don't have much to say to that, except to put out another furious album, expanding the scope of their protest while maintaining their wry view of the world for Ultra Mono.

"Mr. Motivator" answers doubts about the band's approach to songwriting. "I intend to go go go / Like Conor McGregor with a samurai sword on roller blades," Talbot sings. He runs through a bunch of strange and often hilarious metaphors and asks, "How d'you like them clichés?" If IDLES have been known to play with a cliché or two, with a slogan tossed in here or there, it doesn't mean they've been empty lyrics. Sometimes a bunch of overdriven guitars and a sweaty drummer don't need Zizek to get their point across. IDLES get it, offering both catharsis and direction as they struggle for a movement.

The opener, "War", goes to battle against war. Talbot vocalizes the sounds of destruction, naming them for us, as the band throws us into a sort of post-hardcore battle zone. The album doesn't relent much; IDLES move from opening salvo to energetic struggles, pausing just enough to march at a quick pace. "Do you hear that thunder? / That's the sound of strength in numbers," Talbot sings on "Grounds". It's the sort of rallying cry that draws fans and detractors, but its effectiveness lies in its sincere enthusiasm.

The group boil their message down to a fine clarity. Joined by Jehnny Beth, IDLES shouts about consent on "Ne Touche Pas Moi". The song puts it succinctly with shouts of "Consent! Consent! Consent!" over danceable noise. IDLES don't offer compelling couplets on the #MeToo era; their job remains to make those issues tangible. All of this music begs for live shows, for embodiment, and "Ne Touche Pas Moi" makes physical space for that, even in a crowded club where it belongs.

All of this work doesn't quite shake the haters, so the band responds a second time with "The Lover", where Talbot finds support in his community's unity to give a kiss-off to all the haters. If anyone doesn't like "our clichés, our sloganeering and our catchphrase," Talbot has some suggestions for what they can eat. The song grinds a little, and IDLES play their best moving forward rather than fighting back. It makes closer "Danke" that much more of a release, a post-punk number that offers, yes, a cliché, but in the construction of a shelter.

By that time of that ending, a shelter might be in order, but not so much as a respite from critics but as a launching pad for new adventures as a "house that allows you to fail". IDLES know how hard it is out there, now more than ever, but that's all the more reason for raised fists and unceasing resistance. Last time they did it joyfully, and before that, they did it brutally. Now those elements come together, whether for a fight or a moment of gratitude.

8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.