Angry “post”punks from Bristol, IDLES’ new album Brutalism starts with someone being called a bastard before launching headlong into a pulsing drumbeat and sinewy guitar line. Then that voice. Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten, Crass. Rarely do we get a band that actually lives up to the praise and connotation of being linked to the actual classic lineage of punk but then there’s these guys. Fuck and you.
“Heel_Heal” echoes the classics and if you listen closely you can almost hear the angry, miserable wailing and railing of Kurt Cobain during live shows after Nirvana became a monolithic presence. “Well Done” is a drink of turpentine for the alcoholic ear—something simple, chanty, and snotty with plenty of sneer. More than anything else that this band does well in serving up this style is that they believe in that “sod off” attitude that simply can’t be faked.
Sonically, the album sways in a lot of directions including the aforementioned bands as well as a dose of Stiff Little Fingers and Sham 69 (later album track “Benzocaine” veers hard in this territory). Welp. “Mother” just tells you right up front then, doesn’t it? A blistering piece of in-your-face proto-punk that sails into 2017 straight from 40 years ago.
Then you have the rhythm section. I hate using words like syncopation but the role of Adam “Dev” Devonshire (bass) and Jon Beavis (drums) on “Date Night” is ridiculous in both power and simplicity. In the best way. This band almost feel as if they were brought about to show up bands like Arctic Monkeys for the aural frauds that they are. “But I actually like that band!” you protest. IDLES don’t fucking care. You’re gonna listen to their noise and like it… or not and if not, fuck you!
“Divide and Conquer” is notable for the kind of swagger that more of the early progenitors of American punk were known for, something like that of Black Flag before it unravels and seals the deal to that particular band. To double down they throw a Damaged-style drum and guitar riff at you in the opening to “Rachel Khoo”. And of course they name a song after one of Britain’s celebrity chefs…because why not? Then they go on to venomously spit the last name in such a way that you’d swear you’re hearing “coup”.
“Stendahl Syndrome” fires out like the Exploited and ends on a line that’ll have you hanging waiting for singer Joe Talbot to sneer out a “no future” that never arrives. If “Exeter” isn’t taking the piss out of Morrissey and his ilk then I’m not entirely sure Penny Rimbaud ever existed. And if that sentence didn’t make sense to you then you now know the disorientation that this band can inflict.
“White Priviledge” throws a little Cramps/Dead Kennedys twang into the mix with some wonderfully delirious shout-singing-sloganeering. “Slow Savage” does what it says on the tin as an almost drunken dirge for Brexit and/or a breakup. At the same time it gives glimmers of the kind of existentialist miasma created by Joy Division.
At the end of the day, you’re listening to an album that will probably be unlike anything else that comes down the pipe in 2017. In terms of proto/post/plain old punk, IDLES bring it by the truckload. Previous efforts dance around the sheer annoyance and nonchalance that blossoms on this album. Basically, if you like your music with uncompromising attitude you need to have this. Full stop.
So, IDLES, well done.