Bristol punks balance worldliness, humanity on fiery ‘Joy as an Act of Resistance’
On Idles' excellent new album, Joy as an Act of Resistance, the Bristol-based punks, fueled by Brexit Britain and Trump's America, transform oppression, anger, frustration and mistrust into an unbridled call to arms. “This snowflake's an avalanche,” frontman Joe Talbot sneers on “I'm Scum,” summing up the band's ethos.
Throughout, songs address political hot buttons. On “Danny Nedelko,” a heartfelt punk anthem that thrillingly conveys how those in power utilize fear to stoke hate, the band eviscerates the anti-immigration crowd, while “Great” embraces humor to undercut anti-Muslim sentiments. “Islam didn't eat your hamster,” Talbot cracks.
While Talbot's words often play like protest slogans — “I put homophobes in coffins,” the frontman professes on the towering “Colossus” — the music more often hits like a violent clash between opposing demonstrators, guitarists Mark Bowen and Lee Kiernan delivering fast, fuzzy riffs akin to rabbit punches to the kidneys. The rhythm section, which includes drummer Jon Beavis and bass guitarist Adam Devonshire, is equally dynamic, and collectively the quintet moves together with a lethal precision reminiscent of the starting five for the 1986 Boston Celtics (don't @ me).
At its core, though, the album derives its strength not from its worldliness, but from its deep humanity, with Talbot addressing his stillborn daughter on the shattered “June” and later rebounding on “Television” with a command for all of the self-professed “weirdos” listening in: “Love yourself, love yourself, love yourself.” The message is clear: No matter what life subjects us to, the heart must keep beating, and growing.