Idles at Brixton Academy
Over the course of their four-album career, Idles have traced an improbable path from vocal cord-shredding post-punk to something like the mainstream, this month selling out four consecutive nights at Brixton Academy. This is testament to the music, as well as lead singer Joe Talbot’s heartfelt vocals and excoriating lyrics. Their sound is a defiant thrash of joy that could only have been made now. Latest album Crawler, which they’ve called their most “lucid” to date, is a raw howl that addresses Talbot’s journey from addiction to sobriety. It is a big leap forward sonically and spiritually, deeply personal but relatable.
The band (Talbot, Adam Devonshire, Mark Bowen, Lee Kiernan and Jon Beavis) strode on stage on a mission to make the most of the night. Guitarist Bowen was in a demure dress that may have been his nan’s, and somehow only made him even cooler as he guitar-spasmed his way across stage: pure rock charisma in Nora Batty’s wardrobe.
Band and crowd were there to let off steam and nobody disappointed: by the end of opening track Colossus the house lights came up to show the dense crowd had parted to provide a clearing for kids to mosh. Ever caring, Talbot was first to advise looking after one another and helped when security needed to check on someone’s welfare. The only real casualty was a trainer lost in the melee, which a helpful mosher held aloft.
The show hit its zenith with a triple of The Beachland Ballroom, Never Fight a Man with a Perm and New Sensation. The first is the lead single from the current album, a sublimely deranged waltz about damage. It opens with the typically poetic lines “They could hear me scream for miles / The silence ringing for days / The wind that turns the trees / Made me sway, made me sway.” It’s a thing of raw beauty and a joy to experience. Never Fight a Man with a Perm is a stomping dissection of modern masculinity; the lyrics are hilarious as Talbot addresses a Wetherspoon’s warrior: “Brylcreem, Creatine and a bag of Charlie Sheen / He hates me – I like that / You’re not suave ’cause you watched Get Carter / You are a catalogue, plastic Sinatra / You’re not a man, you’re a gland/ You’re one big neck with sausage hands / You are a Topshop tyrant / Even your haircut’s violent”. New Sensation is their danciest track yet, asking listeners to “Shake your tiny tooshie like you don’t give a shit” over tight drums. It feels both nostalgic and fresh.
Comments under the band’s videos on YouTube show there’s a genuine love for them, and it’s easy to see why. Many comments speak of how their music has helped people through hard times, with heartfelt statements such as: “You’re some kind of special Joe Talbot. That kind of special that makes us believe we’re special too! That’s a big gift. Thank you, and thank you Idles.” This was demonstrated perfectly by the kids who set up an impromptu gig opposite the venue as the show ended. Glitchers (singer/guitarist, drummer and their mate Blake) had travelled three hours from Norfolk to rock. And that they did – the singer shredding while straddling the drum kit, crowdsurfing and leaping off a wall to writhe on the pavements of Brixton. It was a strangely heartwarming bonus.
All of this goes to show that, put simply, Idles make the world a better place.
Photos: Miguel de Melo
For further information and future events visit Idles’s website here.
Watch the video for the single The Beachland Ballroom here: