Over the span of a decade, IDLES have gone from a University rock band struggling to be productive to one of the hottest names in music, taking alternative genres to new heights with their hard-hitting lyrics, sold-out tour and UK top 10 album in 2018 with Joy as an Act of Resistance. Currently making the rounds of the biggest festivals and preparing for their upcoming national tour, it looks like good things lie ahead. So, what makes them stand out from the crowd and maintain their worldwide following?
Ever since the release of their debut album Brutalism in March 2017, IDLES have been known for their lyrics above all else. They’ve never avoided the heavier topics, with the death of frontman Joe Talbot’s mother having had a major impact on this album. From then, their most famous tracks have dealt with toxic masculinity, class, self-love and immigration. These themes are never veiled by metaphors –as he sings “I’m a real boy […] and I cry / I love myself and I want to try”, Talbot is vulnerable as a songwriter, using music to reflect his own difficult experiences and to spread the message that we need to change how we think as a society.
Musically, the rest of the band (Adam Devonshire, Mark Bowen, Jon Beavis and Lee Kiernan) take control. Although they reject conventional genre labels, the heavy emphasis on electric guitar and bass take you back to the days of hardcore punk and its will to change the world. It’s the perfect match for the powerful emotion in their lyrics. As live musicians, they have a chaotic energy onstage, usually baffling technicians with their decision to leap into the crowd, but that never gets in the way of their undeniable talent.
The impact these songs have on their fans is obvious by looking at the crowd at any of their gigs. Take, for example, their recent iconic performance at Glastonbury 2019. Although IDLES aren’t a mainstream group, with just two albums under their belt, it seemed like each person in the crowd knew every word to the setlist. It was a beautiful thing to see when the most enthusiastic fans knew the best moments to form a mosh pit, just as their favourite tracks were reaching their peak. But this feeling doesn’t just hit the audience; it was clear the band were overwhelmed to be living their dream.
The genuine and wholesome presence that IDLES have on social media adds to their charm (many of their tweets are in the form of haikus!) They always seem truly amazed that they’ve made it this far, and constantly thank their fans for their support. A band that engages with their listeners in this way is important to fans, so it should come as no surprise that IDLES have become one of the country’s most beloved alternative bands.
So, what can we expect from IDLES in the future? Their recently announced tour of the UK is almost entirely sold out, so the band aren’t stopping any time soon. We’ve also heard hints of another potential album on the way with the recent release of single Mercedes Marxist. In any case, we definitely haven’t seen the last of IDLES.
IDLES will be playing Alexandra Palace in London on December 7th.