Before I start this review of Joy as an Act of Resistance, in the interests of full disclosure, I love Idles. Really love Idles. Without them playing a single note. In the modern Trump/Brexit era, as society becomes more polarized, we need this band and more like them. There’s no bigger turn off for a lot of people, than musicians who play politics. It’s hardly surprising. Nothing gets on my tits more than the likes of Bono, telling me to get my hand in my pocket to help the poor. Meanwhile, through his aggressive tax avoidance schemes, he won’t help keep the lights on at the hospital he was born in.
Idles do things differently. It’s not preachy or partisan (despite their record label!). It’s comes from a place of love and community. They find no time for dogmatic hyperbole. Instead encouraging us to truly look at ourselves, look at those around us and realize once we strip away the sectarianism, the patriarchy and the false narratives that poison the waters of public discourse, there is more that unites us than divides us. Fortunately, these fellas also know how to knock out a great tune. I know people that personally disagree with their politics, but can’t stop listening to their music. Frontman Joe Talbot says Joy as an Act of Resistance is;
“An attempt to be vulnerable to our audience, to encourage vulnerability. A mere brave naked smile in this shitty new world. It is that bravery to freely express yourself that so terrifies the tyrants, as when we share each other’s pain we become stronger as communities and less reliant on our State”
Following their lauded debut album Brutalism, Idles have found themselves top of Spotify’s viral chart, opening for the likes of the Foo Fighters and landing on Loud & Quiet, DIY, CRACK, NME, Dork and BBC Radio 6’s albums of the year lists. So there’s a lot of expectation on this record.
Produced by Space and mixed by Adam Greenspan & Nick Launay (Arcade Fire, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Kate Bush), Joy as an Act of Resistance is a searing takedown of everything from toxic masculinity, nationalism, immigration, and class inequality. But it’s also a record bristling with visceral and viral positivity.
Talbot lays his own past bare in the blazing drive of Never Fight a Man With a Perm. Pro immigration anthem Danny Nedelko and Great give us shout along reminders of how the establishment finger points towards the marginalized of society in times of trouble. Its always been an incongruity of the British far right, so repulsed by immigrants, homosexuality and dissenting opinion, that they brim with pride at defeating the Nazis in the Second World War.
Television is a three minute Ramoneseque rejection of the body fascism so pervasive in the media. Magnificently bathed in profanity and feedback. The Ramones power chord doo-wop is also evoked on the wonderfully tender Cry To Me and only Idles could do a love song like Love Song. Managing to be intimate in its ‘I fucking love you’ ferocity. There is a truly heart wrenching moment on this record in June where Talbot deals with personal tragedy. Ironically it had me fighting a lump in my throat. Obviously leaving me a road to travel before I truly grasp the overarching message of this record.
This album is the opposite of an iron fist in a velvet glove. More like a loving hand of friendship that wears a brass knuckle. One that will smash your teeth in if you can’t get along and play nice. It’s a brilliant record of brutal honesty that serves as a demonstration that Idles are more than capable of living up to the hype that’s currently rising and swirling around them.