Upcoming single ‘Stendhal Syndrome’ turns its fire on the liberal bubble. It points a finger at people who use their convictions to shut down dialogue. “Art is a language of freedom and expression that can be spoken by all,” the band posted on Facebook recently. “If you don’t like what people are saying, move on. Don’t shut them up. That would make you a prick. This is a song reminding you of what a prick sounds like.”
Both songs tap into the sense of frustration and anger that is following in the wake of Brexit and Trump’s victory. Like Fat White Family and Sleaford Mods, Idles too are riding this wave, although they might not admit it. “Our aim isn’t to start a revolution or anything like that,” muses Bowen when I ask them about their band’s politics. “We talk about political things in the pub, so it would be weird if we didn’t sing about it.”
“It’s not like we’ve tapped into a zeitgeist, it’s more that the zeitgeist has tapped into us,” adds Talbot. “People are a lot more socially aware than they were five years ago. They’re a lot poorer than they were and politicians are getting away with a lot more than they used to. It’s creeped in slowly and now bands like us and Sleaford Mods are getting popular you have people popping up saying, ‘who are you guys? You’re just tapping into shit.’ Nah, we’ve always been here but the situation has changed. Conversations up and down the country have turned more political. It’s what people want to hear about right now.”
“Do you find you want to write more political stuff now because of what’s going on?” asks Bowen, stepping into the role of interviewer. “No. I want to be more obtuse,” answers Talbot obligingly. “It would be lame to be like Green Day singing all that American Idiot stuff; it’s, like, well done. I bet Little Mix will come out with a political song any day now. I want to be more expressive and explore myself as a man within this political climate. That’s what we’re doing with the album. I’m interested in how politics affects my psyche, my emotions and my role in society. Basically, I don’t want to keep talking about the bastards and focus more on me as a bastard.”
‘Brutalism’ is that album. Named after the harsh concrete architecture that sprung up in the aftermath of the Second World War, it’s as unsettling and monolithic as the buildings that inspired it. Part pointed polemic about crumbling civil society and the dismantling of the welfare state, and part tribute to Talbot’s mother who tragically passed away during its recordings, it’s the first record that truly captures the intensity that lies at the heart of Idles. Savage, frantic, but surprisingly minimalist, it’s also the closest you’ll get to the band’s live show without having to get your shoes soaked in beer.
“We were having such a crap time writing,” says Bowen as the conversation switches to the new album.
“We were at a point where if we weren’t at the point of full collapse, then we were definitely close,” adds Talbot. “It wasn’t fun and if it’s not fun then you really shouldn’t be doing music. I mean, there’s plenty of shitty jobs out there.”
Bowen picks up the story: “We talked about what we wanted to do and we decided to borrow the philosophy of the brutalist movement. We wanted to take things back to fundamental principles and work from the ground up. A lot of this album is just bass and drums really, and on some of the songs the bass is playing one note.”
It’s an approach that especially chimes with Talbot, who is something of a self-confessed architecture aficionado. “I wanted to use this album to rebuild ourselves in a cheap, easy way. So, in one way it’s kind of a cathartic building block and a big, brash headstone for my mum. It’s an analogy that really works for us – like many great things; it clicked. Honestly, it’s transformed our outlook, the way we write, the way we work together, everything.”