Idles release Ultra Mono – a top-tier album from a band who continue to one-up themselves

Idles release Ultra Mono – a top-tier album from a band who continue to one-up themselves

Photo by Tom Ham
Words by Alex Callan

The hugely anticipated third album is out now.

At this point, Idles are competing with themselves. Their 2017 debut Brutalism seemingly changed the trajectory of modern day punk.

Music listeners that would have scared the hell out of conservatives in the nineties were all of a sudden singing along to songs preaching pro-feminism, anti-violent behaviour, sobriety and even the working hours of mothers.

The new bar was set and that bar was Idles.

Now returning for album number three, Ultra Mono, the Bristol lads have one-upped themselves yet again.

Joe Talbot’s brazenly vitriolic lyricism is uncompromisingly showcased in its most honest form. Lyrics such as “This Means War. ANTI WAR” and “How does it feel to have won the war that nobody wants?” ring scarily true as his accentuated voice barrages through the speakers.

To further add to the intensive abrasiveness of Idles, the album title ‘Ultra Mono’ could be easily replaced with “While My Guitar Gently Screeches”.

The tone that Mark Bowen accomplishes to get from his guitar is as if someone has stuck a kazoo into the end of a kettle while steam comes out of it. It’s high pitched chaotic sound has the unmatched originality that acts like The Knack or The Amboy Dukes pioneered in their day; the result is genuine innovation.

Fuzzy bass, hard hitting drums and “ch-ching, that’s the sound of the sword going in”, gives ‘War’ immediate charm as an opener. It’s reliance on surprise is a vast contrast to the slow burn of previous openers such as ‘Colossus’.

The linear and militant intervals of ‘Grounds’ mixed with Talbot howling “Why are you standing there saying you’re offended?” feeds the in-your-face feel of the album.

‘Anxiety’ adopts more of an older punk approach. With lyrics like “my girlfriend just dumped me, for Friday night TV and a boy who’s 6 foot 3”, I couldn’t help but smile and think back to 90’s pop-punk break-up songs like Blink 182’s ‘Josie’.

Melodic and sombre keys commandeer your attention during the prelude to “Kill Them With Kindness” before grimey, aggressive riffs and literal imitated dog barks smack you from left field. Whilst the riff and repetitive use of lyrics and percussion in ‘Model Village’ resembles art-punk acts classics like Gang of Four’s ‘Ether’.

Most impressively, every song on Ultra Mono offers up something new and exciting. The angular rhythms merged with a deep industrial drones on ‘Reigns’; the truthful lyrical wit found in ‘Carcinogenic’; the juxtaposition of backing vocals and pro-feminist chants on ‘Ne Touche Pas Moi’. There truly isn’t a moment that will bore you.

On top of that, it’s rare to find an album that finishes on its strongest song. In fact, it’s damn near impossible.

‘Danke’ is the outlier. It embodies everything that immersed you over the course of Ultra Mono into a nice neat three and a half minute package. The moment it finished, I restarted the album.

Ultra Mono is out now via Partisan Records / Liberator Music.