Brutalism: A style of architecture popular in the 50s and 60s known for its huge, dominating, and to some, ugly aesthetic. Another definition is “cruelty and savageness”. It’s also the perfect word for Idles’ debut album.
The Bristol band met “at the death of the indie scene” and slowly honed their aggressive and terrifying punk at their own club night before gaining attention with their single ‘Well Done’, sounding like the band that Slaves think they are. Their rage is so refreshingly and furiously authentic, particularly on tracks like ‘Faith in the City’ where lead singer Joe Talbot shouts about star signs and religion, before declaring ‘There’s no jobs in the city”. Unemployment and work are recurring themes on the album, highlighting the very real problem of poverty coupled with the desperation of wage slavery, adding “one degree, several jobs, always poor”.
Tactless lyrics like “Uncle Noel’s got cancer in his lungs and his brain” and “My friend is so depressed, he wishes he was dead” are delivered with such pure unrelenting, unrepenting anger that they smash the very idea of British politeness. Across 13 tracks, they expose our old Keep Calm and Carry On mantra as a failure, and offer Everything’s Shit, Get Angry instead.
The band get their most obviously political in ‘Divide and Conquer’; their “ode to the disembowelment of our NHS”. The anti-Tory anthem is based on a personal story where “a loved one perished at the hand of the baron-hearted right”. The idea that oppressive right wing Governments would result in a renewed wave of punk defiance might have been optimistic, but Idles are making noise to make up for the silence of others.