As a concept, ‘Joy As An Act Of Resistance’ by Idles sounds like a contradiction: an abrasive punk album centered around themes of love and positivity. In fact, this is the record that 2018 was crying out for without even realising it.
The Bristol based five-piece’s second full-length is one of the most anticipated releases of the year, and they’ve managed to steer clear of the difficult-second-album-syndrome with what could very well be the most articulate, personal, and universal record of 2018.
Idles aren’t afraid to tackle the big issues that are facing modern day Britain, or face grief-stricken introspection of their own experiences. Immigration, Brexit, toxic masculinity, class and body image are all insightfully addressed in a way that combines raw fury directed at the state of the world with the message that if we were all a bit nicer to each other, things would probably be alright.
The band have become masters of creating tracks that are visceral punk rock shout-alongs on the surface, but actually feel-good love songs on closer inspection. With its pulsating bass beat and roaring vocal chants, ‘Danny Nedelko’ wouldn’t sound out of place on a football terrace and, if hooligans shouted songs about the benefits of multi-culturalism and loving one another, maybe the world would be a better place.
On their debut ‘Brutalism’, frontman Joe Talbot tackled the trauma of his mother’s death head-on, and his openness and vulnerability is continued on this record. ‘June’ is a heart-breaking tribute to Talbot‘s still-born baby, featuring haunting guitars and a solemn beat throughout.
An over-arching theme running through the album is how impossible it is to separate the personal issues from the societal and how intertwined our lives really are. ‘Television’, whose lyrics stem from conversations that Talbot imagined having with his daughter, is filled with love and could have been uttered by anyone watching someone that they care about put themselves down.
For a band tackling such serious concepts, they aren’t afraid to have a bit of fun. On the tongue-in-cheek cautionary tale ‘Never Fight A Man With A Perm’, Talbot sneers, “You’re not a man, you’re a gland. / You’re one big neck with sausage hands,” at macho roid-boy culture.
Shaking off the post-punk label in favour of faster, straight-up punk rock hooks, Idles have made a record that is both aggressive and loving, hopeful as well as tragic, and insightful yet simplistic.
We might not have known it, but ‘Joy As An Act Of Resistance’ is the album that we all needed in our lives this year.