Ever since Idles released their debut album ‘Brutalism’ in 2017, the Bristol five-piece have inspired a community of like-minded fans to rally against close-mindedness while also choosing love and collaboration as much as possible. This sense of togetherness – and need for a fairer society – runs throughout their eagerly awaited third album ‘Ultra Mono’. As the band would be the first to admit, they’ll make clumsy mistakes along the way as they – and their army of fans – learn how to be true allies to those who are underrepresented and less fortunate – especially as we all have a common enemy in this Tory government.
The album opens with the bang of ‘War’ – a song full of detuned, angular guitars and scattergun drums as Joe Talbot screams about the sounds of swords and shotguns going bang bang before declaring ‘THIS MEANS WAR’. This is swiftly followed by the stop-start riff and call to arms of ‘Grounds’: ‘Do you hear that thunder? That’s the sound of strength in numbers’ and ‘Mr. Motivator’s pop culture references and instruction to ‘seize the day’ as ‘you can do it, yes, you can’. Things take a more melodic turn on the melancholic ‘Anxiety’ – a song that finds Joe talking about our ‘poor, cold leaders’ and how they are determined to start a ‘cold class war’ and how his mental health leads him to sometimes believe that his girlfriend hates him: ‘I’ve got anxiety, it has got the best of me. Satisfaction guaranteed’.
A gentle piano opens ‘Kill Them With Kindness’ (is that the most ‘Idles’ song title yet?) before its replaced by frantic punk riffs, marching drums and healthy yelps – close your eyes and it almost feels like you are back in your favourite toilet venue. As you all know, ‘Model Village’ finds the band rallying against the smalltown mentality that has gripped Britain – and especially England – over the past four or five years, and how many of this community seem to be compulsive liars: ‘Hottest man in the world in the village. Said he go with every girl in the village’. The sheer energy of ‘Carcinogenic’ reminds us of early Britpop bands although the message in this song is loud and clear – no one should be queueing at food banks in a country as rich as Britain: ‘Overworking working nurses and teachers while you preach austerity’.
The robotic and deliberately stunted delivery of the questions ‘How does it feel to have blue blood coursing through your veins?’ and ‘How does it feel to have won the war that nobody wants?’ on the experimental and industrial ‘Reigns’ calls for the working class to be treated better while ‘The Lover’ is an unashamed celebration of romance and how it can make you feel: ‘There’s a feeling washing over me. It was built by you and me, our unity makes me fel so free to say ‘fuck you, I’m a lover’. Joe also gives a nod to his late mother (‘Look, ma, I’m a soul singer’) before delivering a message to the critics: ‘You say you don’t like my cliches, my sloganeering or my catchphrase: Eat shit’. The closing ‘Danke’ has Joe declaring that ‘True Love will find you in the end’ before finishing all too abruptly.
On ‘Ultra Mono’, Idles have continued to deliver messages of hope that will belong on so many people’s stereos.