IDLES - Crawler Music Album Reviews

IDLES - Crawler Music Album Reviews
Exploring personal subject matter and wider musical terrain, the Bristol band’s fourth album plays like the dark origin story for how Idles became the preeminent life coaches of modern post-punk.

Whether you considered Idles’ 2020 album Ultra Mono to be a voice of righteous rage and reason in the age of Trump and Brexit, or just more haughty, hectored hashtag activism for people who smugly share Occupy Democrats memes on Facebook, there’s one thing we can all agree on: Its album cover was perfect. The image of some poor bloke getting smushed by a hot-pink blob was both an accurate depiction of this band’s blunt posi-punk force and a fitting metaphor for lyrics that are often so on-the-nose, they’re liable to crush your face. After all, this is a band whose lead singer doesn’t just wear his heart on his sleeve—he tattooed it into one.

Ultra Mono’s No. 1 debut on the UK charts thrust Idles to the premium crowdsurfer position atop the overflowing circle pit that is the current British post-post-post-punk scene, but the Bristol band truly belong to a more storied lineage. Idles are to 2020s DIY-core what the Clash were to punk, what U2 were to ‘80s post-punk, and what Pearl Jam were to grunge—the earnest, ambitious idealists whose credentials are constantly being called into question. And in true Strummer/Bono/Vedder fashion, frontman Joe Talbot is liable to stick his neck out further than Idles’ more cryptically cantankerous peers, even at the risk of landing in a guillotine. However, unlike those spiritual forebears, Idles can be burdened by a self-awareness that verges on self-defeating. On Ultra Mono, Talbot devoted a fair amount of lyrical real estate to baiting his haters: “How do you like them clichés,” he snorted on “Mr. Motivator,” after spouting off a series of over-the-top lines about his limitless, system-smashing bravado. Answering accusations of “sloganeering” with yet more sloganeering, however ironic, proved to be less of a defense strategy than a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If Ultra Mono felt like the work of someone who’d spent a little too much time reading their own press, Crawler, the band’s fourth album, sounds like they’re genuinely heeding it. The pot shots frequently aimed at Idles in the past—that their politics feel performative; that their hoarse-throated throttle is too, well, ultra-mono—aren’t so easily leveled here. The band’s motorik engine is still in fine working order, but Crawler uses it to explore a wider musical terrain, while Talbot eases off the broad-stroked bromides, forsaking class warfare for psychological drama. In essence, Crawler is like the dark origin story to a crowd-pleasing blockbuster franchise, providing greater context to the transformative events—namely, his battle with addiction and the near-fatal car accident signifying its nadir—that ultimately turned Talbot into modern post-punk’s most voracious life coach.

Idles are no strangers to getting personal, but even their most sensitive and introspective moments have traditionally been delivered with the same bull-in-a-china-shop aggression and lack of subtlety as their protest-placard rockers. Crawler, on the other hand, immediately presents itself as a different beast with “MTT 420 RR,” where Talbot calmly recites the grisly details of the aforementioned vehicular crash as if reliving the moment of impact in slow motion. The air of impending catastrophe is compounded by an eerie, synth-buzzed atmosphere that recalls the Bad Seeds’ recent turn towards ultraviolet ambient soundscapes, with the spare rhythm provided by a jingling sound that suggests someone drunkenly fumbling for their car keys. Of course, when Talbot grimly intones “Are you ready for the storm?,” he’s both bracing for the story’s violent conclusion and teeing up Idles’ inevitable shift back to familiar turbo-punk turf. Even when they come out swinging with “The Wheel,” however, they sound like a changed band: The raised-fist catharsis of old has been replaced by a more ominous, desperate energy that imbues the song’s grim account of intergenerational alcoholism, as bassist Adam Devonshire punctuates each chorus with a droning chord that sounds like the bell tolling on a doomsday clock.

Crawler continues Idles’ unlikely alliance with rap producer Kenny Beats, who contributed drum programming to Ultra Mono but this time assumes a more central role behind the boards with guitarist Mark Bowen. Together, they arrive at a sound that’s more brutally minimalist yet more evocative. Splitting the difference between grimy dub and dubby grime, “Car Crash” returns to the scene of the album’s opener but rewinds the tape to put us in the detuned-radio mind of Talbot as he gets behind the wheel, drunk on his own delusional omnipotence as much as any substance. And while Talbot has famously declared that Idles are “not a fucking punk band,” Crawler finally provides him with some evidence to justify the claim: Where this band once covered a Solomon Burke song and made it sound like the Birthday Party, on “The Beachland Ballroom,” named for the Cleveland concert hall, the band sincerely embraces the role of early ’60s prom-night entertainers, delivering a soulful slow-dance where Talbot channels the self-flagellating romanticism of another Ohio institution, Greg Dulli. But even that sharp left turn seems minor compared to “Progress,” a fever-dreamed industrial folk song seemingly broadcast from Talbot’s darkest hours of addiction, uncomfortably numbed to the point where he no longer senses the difference between bliss and bleakness.

For all these experimental impulses, Crawler ultimately proves to be more a transitional album than a wholesale reinvention, and it’s not entirely clear if Idles have it in them to go full Kid A: The revelatory “Progress” is immediately answered by the 30-second hardcore piledriver “Wizz,” which is less a song than a gag reflex. A good portion of Crawler remains beholden to Idles’ patented hypno-punk propulsion, a formula that can still yield some thrilling, festival-ready rave-ups (“The New Sensation”). However, by the time we reach the vigorous yet hookless “King Snake,” it feels like they’re running on autopilot. So it’s something of a relief to hear the wheels fall off on the closing grunge grunt “The End,” which sounds like Idles tumbling down a never-ending spiral staircase. As ever, Talbot sees the silver lining in a world of shit: “In spite of it all,” he howls, “life is beautiful.” It’s precisely the sort of simplistic, feel-good platitude that Talbot just can’t resist indulging, the post-punk equivalent of a “Live, Laugh, Love” poster. In effect, Talbot is still asking, “How do you like them clichés?” But this time, he’s not so much saying it for his amusement as his rehabilitation: Coming at the end of a record that documents his journey from trauma to triumph, the moment reminds us that clichés are clichés because they’re true.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
IDLES - Crawler Music Album Reviews IDLES - Crawler Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on November 24, 2021 Rating: 5


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