Idles' Joy as an Act of Resistance.
There could not have been a more anthemic album for 2018 than Idles’ Joy as an Act of Resistance. From the second I stumbled upon Idles’ set in the backyard of Hotel Vegas, I was transfixed.
Idles has all the makings of a “punk band.” They are four white men playing feverishly while a fifth, Joe Talbot, stands up front mostly shouting proclamations at the crowd. However, Idles are not like every other punk band. Much like the title of this release, the band flips the concept of aggression against things you oppose on its head. The content of their lyrics places the band in opposition with the history of machismo, violence, homophobia and sexism that has pervaded the punk music scene since its inception. Plus, they are riveting to watch, quite possibly the best live act.
The production is a less straight-forward follow-up to Brutalism, seamlessly shifting between moments that are METZ-ish in weight and distortion and dance-inducing breaths of fresh air. Joy as an Act of Resistance. opens with “Colossus,” in which you can feel the actual weight of the song as Talbot slowly building and building, chanting about the weight of his father's shadow and warning that "It's coming." Then, the composition and tension reach a breaking point and transforms into something entirely different—a ripping punk song.
The album bounces around subjects tackling the commodification of love ("Love Song"), xenophobia ("Danny Nedelko"), and the expectations of masculinity in one of my personal favorites ("Samaritans") . “Samaritans” takes on the conflicting standards that are placed upon men, indirectly showcasing the absurdity of the construct. Talbot chants, “The mask / Of masculinity / Is a mask / A mask that's wearing me / The mask, the mask, the mask” before rebutting the trope stating, “I’m a real boy / Boy and I cry / I love myself / And I want to try,” adding the unforgettable line, “I kissed a boy and I liked it.” It’s an honest and frank commentary that is hard to get un-stuck from your head.
Mid-album, the tone takes an extremely vulnerable and heartbreaking turn with “June,” disclosing Talbot’s experience losing a child in a stillbirth. The first time I heard the song, I remember wondering if the song was meant to be figurative, but as it progresses, it is clearly a brave profession of a personal tragedy. In other interviews, Talbot has admitted that the song was not intended to be recorded and released. I can understand why, even with the extreme voyeurism and invasiveness of modern celebrity culture, this sharing of experience is beyond a PR spin or consumer curiosity.
Idles is the punk band that we have been waiting for and an answer to the over-used question of “I’m a cis white man, what do I have to say musically that’s worth listening to?”*
Released: August 31, 2018 by Partisan Records
Produced by: Space (Paul Frazer)
Mixers: Adam Greenspan, nick Launay
*Editor’s note: I have been legitimately asked this question by more men than I can count.