The introspective and experimental places Idles went to on their last record, 2021’s CRAWLER, are not forgotten on their new full-length TANGK. However, instead of actively (and outwardly) trying to reach further into unknown realms, and prove the expansiveness of their ingenuity, the Bristol group have settled into a position that feels sincerely fortifying.
After the mood setting prelude ‘IDEA 01’, ‘Gift Horse’ comes swaggering in, harking ever so slightly back to the jaggedness of Idles’ early material, followed by the ice-cool, pared-back yet self-assured glitchy hip-hop of ‘POP POP POP’. Meticulously layered, crafted and sampled in its production, combined with Joe Talbot’s slick vocal delivery and lyricism, undoubtedly heralds the track as a real hallmark for the band’s career.
Idles fully lean into their softer side on TANGK, in a way they haven’t done before, with both grit and mercy. Talbot’s lyrical process mirrors the one he pursued on 2020’s Ultra Mono, only writing three verses to the songs that would become TANGK on purpose, prioritisng whatever came to him at the microphone in that moment. The immediacy born offers less room for overthinking, and perhaps a vulnerability that cuts a unique rawness and poeticism. ‘Roy’ is stark, imbued with soul, next to the gorgeous piano ballad ‘A Gospel’. Even ‘Grace’, with barely-there vocals and choppy experimental electronics, is reliant on the breathtaking melodies that Idles do so well on TANGK.
Feeling feelings in the moment works for the most part on this record, but in others it feels careless and cocky. TANGK seems to lose itself slightly towards the end, instigated by the kitschy garage rock ‘Hall + Oates’, which feels like a murky smudge on the beautiful bigger picture crafted by the impressive opening tracks. While Idles may never recreate the transgressive magic that they achieved with their first two records, TANGK has come ever so close with its joyous vulnerability and (mostly) compelling compositions.