ALBUM REVIEW: IDLES – Ultra Mono

Release Date: September 25th 2020
Label: Partisan Records
Website: www.idlesband.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/idlesband
Twitter: www.twitter.com/idlesband

Rating:

Three manic years have passed since IDLES unleashed their blistering debut, ‘Brutalism’, which saw a full devotion and embracing of the punk aspect of their post-punk beginnings.

After the impressive one-year turnaround that saw ‘Joy As An Act Of Resistance’ catapult them to global acclaim, these five friends have continued to prosper while the world around them burns, and how they’re aware.

‘Ultra Mono’ is their most direct and definitive statement yet. While many have commented on the lyrics being too far removed from the more humorous anecdotal style many have come to expect from endlessly endearing frontman Joe Talbot, the point of ‘Ultra Mono’ is to say as much as possible with the least amount of words. 2018 was a time to comment on the state of things with niche references and cheeky metaphors. 2020 is where subtly and nuance have come to die and IDLES are sick of trying to convey their message in a manner that won’t accost and challenge you directly.

The group continue to push their compositional approach more and more outside of the box without managing to alienate their broader mainstream appeal. Guitarists Mark Bowen and Lee Kiernan trade in harsh, caustic noise-rock no-wave riffage, echoing early Swans or latter day Daughters, testing the parameters of just how much they can musically challenge their wide spectrum of listeners.

Opening your album with an anti-war song titled ‘War’ on paper is a massive eye-roll, but in practice, it’s genuinely one of the most scathing, intelligent, minimal, and dissonant anti-war messages an artist has produced in decades.

Succinctly put, this is the music of the under-appreciated, under-privileged and marginalised. The 99% who are left to fight “the war that nobody wants”, as addressed on the mammoth, anthemic crusher, ‘Reigns’.

Vehemently charged, unabashed swipes are taken at everything from misogyny and harassment (‘Ne Touche Pas Moi’), to small-town homophobia and racism (‘Model Village’), and classism (‘Carcinogenic’), to name but a few.

If these all sound like tried and true punk subjects, it’s because they are, and they’re still as relevant and prevalent as ever. In the hands of most artists, these ideals can come off as insincere or ham-fisted but with a group this intelligent and self-aware, it couldn’t feel more potent, earnest, and infectious.

‘Ultra Mono’ is a truly seething, motivating, and rage-inducing post/art-punk project. Heavy on the punk, heavy on the meaning: “Fuck you. I’m a lover”.