We’re going to come clean, when we first pressed play on IDLES’ new album Ultra Mono, the Bristolian’s third record to date, we had fully prepared ourselves to be glib. To riddle the review with accusations of laziness or pandering. Instead, we weren’t just given a dose of reality, anger, frustration, pain, joy and goofy smiles, but every other thing we needed too. 2020 has been a shit show but at least we have one record we can hold dear to our hearts as the world burns around us. IDLES have done it again.
If you wanted to follow the words of a now-defunct indie-shock-rock group, then you may be arriving at this album ready to burn it to the ground. However, to do so would be a serious oversight of the value of IDLES and the message their endlessly spreading. Try as you might to not feel included in that message, it is a longstanding one and a message of hope and unity. The fact that they do that over an abrasive, aggressive and antagonistic punk rock sound makes Ultra Mono a contender for some of IDLES best work.
That’s no small feat given that their previous album, Joy As An Act of Resistance, became a defining moment when it was released. It felt unusual to have such powerful and thunderous sonics provide a message of love that it swept up swathes of a generation looking for something to bind them. Trying the exact same message would surely fall flat? Luckily, Joe Talbot and his band saw that coming and if IDLES are ready for anything, it is ‘the fight’. So, while there’s certainly a similar theme running through this album in comparison to the last, an almost forensic assessment of British culture through the guise of filthy boot-stomping punk rock, the record can be more accurately be described as a statement.
There is less encouragement to join in, less opportunity to sit in a circle and discuss ourselves. This album is about reflecting the world around them and scorning all that they deem below the pale and, as you might expect, they do it brilliantly through a flurry of fisticuff-ready punk rock bangers. The band’s singles, ‘Mr Motivator’ and ‘Model Village’ have already shown their hand on the album, providing visceral visions of modern Britain and the songs go further still—opener ‘War’ is a particular treat.
Through a host of songs the band allow us to revel in our frustrations, to stomp out our struggles and throw our heads around some difficult subjects. The LP gives us reason to feel hopeful for a future and what a new generation of punks will have as a blueprint for success. Simply put, IDLES have delivered another dose of everything we need to get us through the rest of 2020 and we’re damn, grateful for it.