‘Never Fight A Man With A Perm’ has to be a contender for funniest song of the year. Joe Talbot’s biting, cynical, seething lyrics paint the picture of that guy that you really don’t like, a vitriolic rant at the cocaine-fuelled business-lad of your worst nightmares. “You’re not a man you’re a gland / You’re one big neck with sausage hands” spits Talbot, a derisory takedown that, whilst infinitely enjoyable, feels slightly out of place on an album that spends most of its time preaching acceptance, love and togetherness. On Joy As An Act Of Resistance, IDLES sure do have a heart of gold.
‘Colossus’ tackles the mental health issues faced by Talbot, ‘Danny Nedelko’ embraces immigration and cultural diversity, and ‘Samaritans’ attacks toxic masculinity in all its forms. There’s no stone left unturned by the band, casting a wide net over the worst aspects of being in Britain in 2018, each track preaching a message of joy in the face of trauma – unity as an act of resistance. ‘Television’ tackles self-image, ‘Rottweiler’ takes on the depravity of the English press and ‘June’ attempts to heal the loss of a loved one – issues the band tackles with straightforward writing and endless ambition. There’s not a weak point in sight on the album, 12 tracks of perfectly written, no-frills punk that fills the heart with the kind of warm aggression taking place in every IDLES mosh pit on their tour.
The difference between IDLES’ first and second album is also astonishing – not just in breadth of technique and style but in tone, mood, and message. Brutalism was one of the most complete releases of 2017 – an album wrapped up in its own personal cocoon of self-destructive anger and political scorn. You can hear it in Talbot’s voice on ‘Heel / Heal’ – strained, breaking and howling at every turn – the album delivering completely on its brutalist stylings and anarchic attitude. With Joy As An Act Of Resistance, the nihilistic outlook has been diminished, altered and bent into new, more positive shapes – the album an outpouring of love in response to tragedy. The howls and wails that reverberated inside Brutalism are no longer, replaced with chants, hollers and top-of-the-lungs war cries that exude an anarchic glee – statements of intent that embed themselves into every listener.
IDLES prove to be one of the UK’s most formidable cultural exports with Joy As An Act Of Resistance – a defiant, triumphant sophomore album that expands in scope and scale in every way from their stellar debut. The record exudes a vibrant, endlessly compelling energy that fearlessly challenges authority, toxicity and the chaos of modern life with razor-sharp focus – it’s full to the brim with a vitality and energy that’s sorely needed in such bleak, challenging times – a band that’s more now than anything else out there.
Joy As An Act Of Resistance was released on 31st August via Partisan Records.