By Abhishek Sherigar
If you’ve bothered glancing at the paper or TV you might have noticed that we happen to live in quite a divisive time socially and politically. Around the world from Washington to Tokyo, partisanship, nationalism, and extremist politics have risen. It seems in this day and age we are increasingly divided, myopic, and driven to fear the “other,” whoever they might be. This climate is the perfect time for Joy as an Act of Resistance., the sophomore studio album released by IDLES, a Bristol-based British post-punk outfit.
The band delivers to the listener an aggressive and energetic punk sound coupled with left-leaning politics. The opening track, “Colossus,” starts with a stripped down instrumental with the same droning power chord echoing in the background. By the time the second chorus comes in, the band is in full swing, with thundering percussion, scratching guitar, and wailing vocals by lead singer Joe Talbot. The track is about being a “real” man and toxic masculinity. The rest of the tracks each espouse a message, usually a commentary on politics or society. The track “Never Fight a Man with a Perm” deals with a reflection of a dark and regretful past.
The next few tracks deal with themes of uprising, the plight of immigrants, and love. The sixth track, “June,” is poignant and breaks the mold. It tells the story of how Joe had a child who was stillborn. The track climaxes in the middle, and through the end all you hear is Talbot’s strained voice and a steadily thumping bass drum in the background emulating a funeral march. The chorus is a repeated line attributed to Ernest Hemingway: “Baby shoes for sale: never worn.”
The rest of the tracks emulate a similar message to the first few. “Television” is about living a full life, including the line “If someone talked to you the way you do to you, I’d put their teeth through, Love yourself.” The track “Great” reflects a positive attitude in the face of Brexit. The album closes off with a final track on the inflammatory and frivolous nature of tabloid news.
With an aggressive yet stripped down sound, politically charged lyrics, and a surprisingly positive attitude, the IDLES bring something we’ve all been needing. I loved this album, it’s a wonderful improvement since their last. I’ll admit, the same repeated subjects relating to politics or society do come off like the platitudes of an angry teenager, but they don’t taint my enjoyment all that much. The lyrics here aren’t profound–they’re quite frankly quite obvious things–but they don’t have to be all that insightful. In simple language and in a simple but put-together sound, the band delivers a wonderful product. Sometimes you just need a man screaming at you to love yourself. Give it a listen.