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A self-proclaimed “angry band” from Bristol in Southwest England, Idles take the fury of punk rock and wed it to a muscular but moody instrumental attack that matches the literate, purposeful menace of their lyrics. Lead singer and lyricist Joe Talbot’s full-bodied ranting, in which he offers his vehement opinions on the state of British culture and his own personal issues, is matched by the rich, angular blast of the musicians, who can swing from melodic to brutally hard at a moment’s notice. Idles contented themselves with a manic, tightly focused attack on 2017′s Brutalism, which grew into the more ambitious but equally fierce sound of 2018′s Joy as an Act of Resistance. 2021′s Crawler was the work of a more dynamic and nuanced group, but the band retained the uncompromised lyrical bile and dark shadows of their earlier sound.
Idles were formed in 2009 by vocalist Joe Talbot, lead guitarist Mark Bowen, rhythm guitarist Andy S, bassist Adam Devonshire, and drummer Jon Harper. Eager to find an audience, Idles established a club night in Bristol they called Batcave, and through live work they developed a passionate local following. In 2011, Jon Harper left the group, and another Jon, Jon Beavis, took over on drums. After distributing a homemade demo among fans, they released their four-track debut EP, Welcome, in August 2012. The EP quickly earned positive press, but with Idles self-financing their own recordings, it wasn’t until October 2015 that they released their follow-up, Meat, another four-track EP. A month later, Meat was followed by Meta, which featured remixes of the tracks from Meat by David Pajo, Peter Robertson, Sly One, and Thom Alt J. By the time Meat had been released, Andy S had left Idles and Lee Kiernan had taken over on guitar.
As the U.K. music press became increasingly enthusiastic about Idles, the band released a single in August 2016, “Divide & Conquer,” a bitter critique of the budget cuts that had crippled the U.K.’s National Health Service. The song was the first track from their full-length debut album, Brutalism, which arrived in early 2017 on Balley Records and received widespread acclaim for its intelligence as well as its hard-edged report. The group toured extensively and continued to write new material throughout 2017. They entered the studio in January 2018 to begin recording their follow-up, which was created during a difficult time for the band. Talbot was struggling with the death of his mother (he’d been her primary caretaker since she suffered a stroke when he was 16), and he and his partner were dealt another blow when their expected daughter was stillborn. After turning to alcohol to cope, Talbot got sober, and his personal experiences as well as the larger issues of life in the U.K. informed Idles’ second LP, 2018′s Joy as an Act of Resistance.
They returned in May 2019 with the single “Mercedes Marxist,” and later the same year released their debut live album, Beautiful Thing: Live at Le Bataclan. It wasn’t long before a third album was on the way, continuing their prolific streak of a record a year. Ultra Mono arrived in 2020 and featured guest artists for the first time, including Jehnny Beth of Savages (Talbot appeared on her 2020 album To Love Is to Live), Warren Ellis (of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds), and jazz-pop artist Jamie Cullum. For their fourth studio album, 2021′s Crawler, Idles embraced more dynamic arrangements, adding the influences of soul and electronic music without reigning in their energy or attitude. As the band’s audience grew, they collaborated with other acts of note, including Sharon Van Etten (covering “Peace Signs” on 2021′s Epic Ten), Tom Morello (appearing on “The Bachelor,” a track on his 2021 release The Atlas Underground Flood), and Metallica (interpreting “The God That Failed” on the Black Album tribute box set The Metallica Blacklist). 2022 saw Idles celebrating the five-year anniversary of their Brutalism LP with a deluxe reissue that featured a handful of concert tracks taken from Live from BBC Introducing at Glastonbury. ~ Mark Deming