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Idles - Crawler (Album Review)

Wednesday, 17 November 2021 Written by Laura Johnson

Idles have long been a reliable source of mayhem, with Joe Talbot’s polemics running up against torrents of guitar noise, but learning to pull things back and explore the impact of the notes left unplayed requires another skill set entirely. It’s one the Bristol band have honed beautifully on ‘Crawler’, their second album in a little more than a year.

That being said, they manage to escape the pitfalls of sounding calculating and contrived. In fact, the opposite is true. The element of surprise has returned to their music following 2020’s more straightforward ‘Ultra Mono’, which for a popular, press-heavy band on their fourth album is an impressive feat. 

With hip hop producer Kenny Beats back after briefly working on its predecessor, ‘Crawler’ leans into that world at times, alongside shards of industrial sound. Car Crash finds Idles traversing new terrain by combining these influences on an erratic track that becomes almost unlistenable at points.

As with many cuts on the record, there are suspense-filled moments where it risks falling apart, only for the band to hold the energy in that pocket of time and rinse it of all its potential. 

Further industrial, haunting elements creep in on tracks such as When The Lights Come On, which owes a lot to the post-punk of the late 1970s, almost making the tropey line “the kids are not alright” excusable. The Beachland Ballroom, meanwhile, is delivered in a doo wop style, and Progress is another anomaly, with double-tracked, heavily processed vocals making for an uncomfortable listen.

Talbot’s voice is dynamic throughout, favouring peaks and troughs over one note, balls-to-the-wall shout-singing. On Crawl! he ricochets effortlessly from gravelly screams to dulcet tones, while the subject matter covered is also vast. He speaks on addiction during the chaotic 30-second cut Wizz, reciting text messages from his former drug dealer, and at other points reinvestigates grief and self worth.

The Wheel and The New Sensation deliver the fist-pumping rhythms and singalong choruses that Idles’ loyal fanbase have become accustomed to, though that’s not to say they’ve phoned it in. The rhythm section of bassist Adam Devonshire and drummer Jon Beavis make your teeth rattle, and Talbot’s wordplay is on form. “Get up on your feet and get down for a bit, shake it to the snare and get down to the kick,” encourages the frontman at one point. 

Idles are still very much concerned with getting people on their feet, but this time around they have managed to achieve it while pushing the envelope creatively. The resulting record is one that smacks of a band being at the top of their game.

IDLES Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sun January 16 2022 - LONDON O2 Academy Brixton
Mon January 17 2022 - LONDON O2 Academy Brixton
Tue January 18 2022 - LONDON O2 Academy Brixton
Wed January 19 2022 - LONDON O2 Academy Brixton
Fri January 21 2022 - CARDIFF Motorpoint Arena
Sat January 22 2022 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy Birmingham
Mon January 24 2022 - DUBLIN Vicar Street
Tue January 25 2022 - DUBLIN Vicar Street
Wed January 26 2022 - DUBLIN Vicar Street
Fri January 28 2022 - MANCHESTER O2 Victoria Warehouse
Sat January 29 2022 - MANCHESTER O2 Victoria Warehouse
Sun January 30 2022 - MANCHESTER O2 Victoria Warehouse
Tue February 01 2022 - SHEFFIELD O2 Academy Sheffield
Wed February 02 2022 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE O2 City Hall
Thu February 03 2022 - GLASGOW Barrowland
Fri February 04 2022 - GLASGOW Barrowland
Sat February 05 2022 - GLASGOW Barrowland

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