Hear The People Sing: A Review of Ultra Mono by IDLES

IDLES. I find them majorly likeable, always have. Part of the reason is how they come across as genuine folk, and warm at that. I think that sentiment may sum the five up in a way. To have that embracing quality, when your output is deemed loud, fierce, and punchy, is all about challenging conceptions and stereotypes. Popularity on the rise, it was unquestionably aided by their 2019 Glastonbury set, where every viewer, field or front room, felt their gratitude and humility to be inspiring while they entertained new and old fans. Friday September 25th, third album Ultra Mono is unleashed on Planet Earth through Partisan Records.

It’s easy to become attached to Post-Punk at the moment, with the likes of IDLES and Fontaines D.C. sharing what needs to be said by them, probing the listener to digest and think. However, where D.C. uses poetic, wordy verse, quite admirably I must add, IDLES go to blunt, stark, and brash poesy. Simplistic? Yes, expected? Right, but they have no desire or want to flower it up, for who? And it’s in this style where we’ll hear topics such as inclusivity, community, and toxic masculinity, and the general depressing state of our country now, amongst other pressing themes explored in Ultra Mono. From Bristol to Paris, Nick Launay and Adam ‘Atom’ Greenspan produced the outcry with the required definition, while Kenny Beats, also added his two cents.

“ULTRA MONO Momentary acceptance of the self. We aim for our music to be a window onto us and a mirror onto you, a form of truth or transparency." Frontman Joe Talbot illustrates. Into battle we go, in a Mad Max frenzied fashion, with the army of devoted fans behind them; opener War is the soundtrack as we march to the pressing drum beat, setting the scene of what’s to follow. Single Ground’s heartbeat and short eruptions of memorable guitar lowers the zeal down a notch but not that fighting spirit: “Do you hear that thunder, that’s the sound of the strength in numbers.” The screeching end to the number adding intense theatre to the cause.

It is not often that we hear about Delia Smith after ten chardonnays, but it’s there in lockdown contribution Mr Motivator. Not overtly sonorous, the song takes an ironic glance at the disgusting side of celebrity culture. Quite the tuneful chorus is sung: “Let's seize the day. All hold hands, chase the pricks away.” Anxiety from the group is in a similar vein to its predecessor with the brutal home truth, “Our government hates the poor.” We are given thirty seconds of unexpected calm with the gentle piano intro for Kill Them With Kindness, but it doesn’t last for long, obviously, as the dense guitar riffs soon add contrast.

Highlight and sing-along inducing Model Village has the hip hop essence the group admires, possessing a rhythmic quality, reminding me of Dizzy Rascals Fix Up, Look Sharp; it is mighty tuneful for our boys' standards. Lyrically, it shows that sometimes the quintessential village can be a most dangerous and frightening place: “Homophobes by the tonne in the village, a lot of overpriced drugs in the village.” A little alternative indie is to be found in Ne Touche Pas Moi and a reference to that valuable lesson we learnt from 80’s classic Dirty Dancing “This is my dance space.”

Darker dramatically fuelled tones are present in the next three songs: Carcinogenic, Reins, and The Lover. Top track Reigns creates an unnerving atmosphere due to a sax contribution by Bad Seed explorative genius Warren Ellis on this particularly politically charged moment: “How does it feel to have shanked the working classes into dust.” A Hymn is the anthem of the collection: a stripped-back, lengthy piece coated in sadness and a moment to gather thoughts from the full-on ride we have embarked on together. Conclusion Danke causes the tension to rise back up with the creation of the siren effect that runs throughout the whole record.

Candidly intense but completely needed. It’s a whirlwind creation, and I loved it very much; it’s the ‘fuck you’ attitude that we can get on board with. Not happy with how certain communities are regarded and treated, IDLES has formed their own, offering a sense of belonging to their faithful followers. Anyone can join their movement, that seeks change, at any time, or you may just want to put this on, turn the volume up high, and let it all out, entirely up to you. Just be kind, play nice, and play fair is what Joe, Mark, Lee, Adam, and Jon ask.

Article by Beverley Knight