Idles unleash powerhouse allegory in their fifth album ‘TANGK’

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Idles unleash powerhouse allegory in their fifth album ‘TANGK’

Credit: Tom Hamphoto
Words by Alex Callan

Extending an explosive run of unerringly stirring albums, TANGK is this band’s most ambitious and striking record yet.

I was initially sceptical about Idles’ fifth album, TANGK. While I had praised their first two releases, Brutalism and Joy As An Act of Resistance, their third album, Ultra Mono, felt like a substandard follow-up, seeming more like the group was riding the wave of newfound success rather than genuinely trying something new.

Then came Crawler. A dark and grimy slow burn of a release, Crawler saw the English-based outfit straying away from their punk origins to deliver something significantly more experimental, yet equally as thought-provoking. So when the disco-punk ‘Dancer’ dropped as Crawler’s follow-up, marking the first single from TANGK, I wasn’t sold. Sure, its jagged riffs and drilling basslines were head-boppable enough, but its lacklustre, humdrum chorus created some doubt about what the album had in store for us. 

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Luckily, my expectations were wrong. TANGK stands as a powerhouse addition to the group’s arsenal. At its core, it’s a love album, but not in the way many would expect, with the group’s fifth release serving as a collection of allegories about vocalist Joe Talbot’s journey of finding self-love. 

Speaking about the album, lead singer Joe Talbot says, “TANGK. I needed love. So I made it. I gave love out to the world and it feels like magic. This is our album of gratitude and power. All love songs. All is love.”

Backed by his previous efforts, Talbot is a vulnerable and precise songwriter who crafts lyrics that most people would struggle to disagree with. He delivers them with a level of wit, charm, and candour that sets him apart from the majority of anarchist punk frontmen.

TANGK is no exception to this sentiment, with songs such as ‘Gift Horse’ exploring Talbot’s gratitude and reliance for his loved ones, with lyrics like “my baby, she’s so strong, she talks me straight when I’m doing wrong” and “my baby is beautiful, all is love and love is all,” before powerfully asserting, “fuck the king, he ain’t the king—she’s the king”.

TANGK isn’t just a journey of intrigue and discovery for Talbot; it also showcases heavy experimentation from the entire band. 

‘IDEA 101’ and ‘POP POP POP’ deliver swirling synth loops, elements of electronic percussive and dissonant trip-house characteristics akin to Jamie XX, James Blake or Radiohead (now may be a good time to mention that one of the album co-producers was Radiohead’s ‘sixth’ member Nigel Godrich). 

‘Grace’ highlights Mark Bowen’s newly adopted role within the group, with his meticulous use of programming creating intriguing sound effects in place of his rambunctious riffs. ‘Gratitude’ delivers grimy soundscapes and chaotic effects that can only be likened to the sound of dial-up internet crashing due to overexposure of hi-hats, and ‘Hall and Oates’ satisfies the punk purists by packing the hefty grunt of the group’s first two releases.

It’s Idles in their finest hour. A gallant release that perfectly culminates the old while giving a healthy dose of something new.

TANGK is out now via Partisan Records. Listen to it here