When it comes to talking about our favourite bands of all time, Idlewild are a constant presence in the Top 5. From the punk of ‘Chandelier’ and ‘When I Argue I See Shapes’ to a classic opening trilogy of albums, they wrote songs that would become soundtracks to our lives – as well as influencing pretty much every great Scottish band out there, from Biffy Clyro to The Xcerts and even The Twilight Sad. After a couple of albums which were released to little fanfare (although still had their moments, ‘If it Takes You Home’ from ‘Make Another World’ is a belter and ‘Readers & Writers’ from ‘Post Electric Blues’ is delightful), the band disbanded to work on various solo projects and many thought it was the end of Idlewild. But now, after six long years and with a new, expanded line-up and fresh new attitude in tow, they’re back with album number seven – Everything Ever Written.
Drenched in grungey feedback and with plenty of ‘D’you Know What I Mean’-style ambience (including what sounds like a helicopter engine taking off), ‘Collect Yourself’ opens proceedings with one of Rod Jones’ killer riffs cutting through to mark the start of a new era for Idlewild. Roddy Woomble sings delicately over the top how you’re: ‘young but only for a moment in time’ and how ‘you are younger, older, frozen in time’; setting in stone a theme that will be returned to time and time again through the course of the record. While the music – especially Rod’s squawking and screeching guitar lines – bring to mind the frantic joy of ‘A Modern Way of Letting Go’, Roddy’s vocals are more in line with his folky solo project. Following this is the 6Music favourite ‘Come On Ghost’, a country-flavoured song that finds the band at their most considered. A really full sound that showcases the talent of the new band members, Roddy delivers memorable lines like: ‘Explosion in a sewer, the rats have found the sunshine’, while the two-and-a-half minute crescendo that finishes the song even manages to throw in some brass. It’s a statement from the band that they’re back and are so pleased they’re making music together once more.
‘Nothing I Can Do About It’ finds the band in arena-rousing form. With its Coldplay-esque opening complete with twinkling piano and big bass lead-up, there’s also a touch of Doves’ ‘Pounding’ as Roddy once again refers to growing up: ‘When you get older and that novelty goes and all you can seek is just that burned-out candle where there used to be flames, there’s only absence smoking away’ and ‘You can make sure the bookshelves are alphabetical, poetical, non-political’. Although the music is bursting with positivity, there’s a sense of regret and despair in the lyrics of the chorus: ‘There’s nothing I can do about it, there’s nothing I can do or say. Even if I could, I’d only walk away’. ‘Every Little Means Trust’ is a slower guitar-driven song that finds Idlewild harking back to a band who has always been a major influence on them – R.E.M. With call-and-response lyrics, there’s also a touch of Ryan Adams as Roddy sings: ‘In my dreams, I am always young’.
The band head off in a number of directions throughout the album and during ‘Like a Clown’ they almost have a melodic campfire sing-along, although once again it’s tinged with sadness and a healthy dose of cynicism: ‘Like a clown, you’ll do anything for fame’. The guitars are plugged in once more on ‘On Another Planet’, a song that could be a distant cousin of The Only Ones ‘Another Girl, Another Planet’. The vocals are spat out with relish, Colin Newton’s drums are delightfully wild and feverish and the guitars are electrifying – it’s in huge contrast to the jazz-tinged ‘All Things Different’ that could well be this album’s ‘Idea Track’. With trumpets, Whiplash-style drums and lyrics that compare feelings to a shipwreck, it’s Idlewild as you’ve never heard them before – and for us it works, but we can imagine it may be divisive… The soulful pop groove of ‘Radium Girl’ is a more traditional, timeless sound and has a chorus you’ll be singing along to by the third time it comes around: ‘You can feel that way alone, everybody feels that way when they’re alone. You could be cut in half like a radium girl, missing out on the world’.
Album closer ‘Utopia’ seems to sum up the wide-reaching nature of ‘Everything Ever Written’. Gorgeous, lilting, almost classical piano opens the song before some subtle glitch moments join the fray and Roddy sings dark lyrics about ‘cemetery blues’ and how ‘in a few more hours I’ll be there with you’. Emotional and full of feelings, the lyrics take in huge subjects in a similar way to The Flaming Lips’ ‘Do You Realize?’, especially when Roddy states: ‘Everyone in the world is up to something every single moment’. A stunning return from a much-loved band, ‘Everything Ever Written’ shows why Idlewild are so special. It’s a mature, all-embracing record that should be welcomed with open arms. Let’s hope it kick-starts another glorious phase in Idlewild’s career.
Buy ‘Everything Ever Written’ here.