idlewild

Over the last twenty years, Idlewild have withstood a level of upheaval and hiatus that would have destroyed most bands, so it’s fitting that ‘Everything Ever Written’ is a culmination of that endurance. This is their seventh LP, and one that they’ve threatened to make in the years since the tumult of ‘100 Broken Windows’.

For many, Idlewild will forever be anchored by the angst and brilliance of an album released fifteen years ago, but that shouldn’t diminish everything else that’s emerged since – hope isn’t as important as history, here.

Jump back to the power and fury that characterized the turbulent ‘Hope is Important’, as well as its defining follow up, and it seems almost inconceivable that ‘Everything Ever Written’ is the work of the same band. But let’s not pretend we expected Idlewild to come barreling out of the unknown with another album of wild, anthemic ballast – that was never going to happen – or that the breezy, rich arrangements on this record are really a colossal surprise.

The ambition that came to weighty emotional fruition on ‘The Remote Part’ was the beginning of a band that has both dutifully and, at times, necessarily, become hugely adept at buffing and polishing their once celebrated rough edges. It’s a craft that’s been incubated and developed in prevailing years, its fate increasingly tied to the secluded words and simplicity of Roddy Woomble’s folk-inspired solo offerings, as well as unfair criticism that their dedication to more refined songwriting was the mark of a band unsure of where to go next.

It’s a quiet persistence that’s coloured Idlewild of the last decade: no alarms, no surprises, just the composed confidence of a band comfortable with what they’re doing, and this echoes through the calm of ‘Everything Ever Written’.

‘Like A Clown’ is a soundtrack to starry nights and campfires with acoustics out and drinks in hand, the rich tones of ‘So Many things to Decide’ is half prairie ode, half organ-drenched Sunday session, and ‘Every Little Means Trust’ feels like a track desperate to be bigger than its three or so minutes allow.

It all builds to the sound of a band set for Jools Holland appearances and Greenman climaxes, safe and content in the rich tones, brass-blasted orchestration, and wafting compositions. The amplified flash of ‘Collect Yourself’ – with Jones’ guitars crunching on the chorus, and picking curious, jittery funk lines on the verse – and the familiar ‘There Goes the Fear’ pound of ‘Nothing I Can Do About It’ briefly disrupt the strum-by-numbers before ‘On Another Planet’ attempts to create some urgency, and only really succeeds in sounding like Idlewild trying to be the Idlewild of old.

It’s one of the few reminders that help pull ‘Everything Ever Written’ into focus as a confirmation of their tirelessness as much as it a time-trodden inevitability. Safe in their hiatus, they could have just faded away but for those of us who’ve endured with Idlewild for the last two decades, it’s reassuring to know that they’re still here, however quiet.

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