TANGK by IDLES album review by Gareth O'Malley for Northern Transmissions. The seminal UK band's LP drops on February 16 via Partisan Records




Since blowing a hole in the wall with Joy as an Act of Resistance in 2018, Bristol band IDLES have done things their own way; their most commercially successful record ironically presented listeners with the most blunt and hyper-focused version of the band. Ultra Mono had plenty of high points, but in hindsight it’s easy to see that the quartet felt boxed in.

The wiry post-punk which they’d made their calling card had a ceiling, and Ultra Mono was it—a knowing pastiche of what people had come to expect, a record they needed to make before clearing the decks; and clear them they did, with the kind of Brutalism that their debut took its name from.

CRAWLER wasn’t a complete reinvention, but it moved the band’s sound forward enough to indicate they were ready to keep moving, because the IDLES of 2024 isn’t a post-punk band, or even a punk band (singer Joe Talbot has been clear on this) – it’s the kind of omnivorous rock band that’s always been primed to make an album like this. Really, once ‘The Beachland Ballroom’ was released as its predecessor’s lead single, all bets were off.

The stentorian, sprechgesang bark of old has largely been swapped out for his singing voice, slicing through the eerie backdrop of opener ‘IDEA 01’ as piano and ambience swirl around the stereo field & drummer Jon Beavis holds everything together with a simple rhythmic ostinato. It’s a menacing and surprisingly dark way to open a record whose lyrics are laser-focused on love: keeping it, losing it, making sense of it. “These are the things we lost in the fire” Talbot croons as the music builds to a gradual swell around him, before it’s off to the races with ‘Gift Horse’ and more familiar territory, as Adam Devonshire, Mark Bowen and Lee Kiernan’s bass and guitars are locked in, doing a whole lot with a delightfully simple hook and explosive chorus—as an added bonus, it gives fans the chance to roar ‘fuck the king!’ at live shows.

Those live shows—furious, explosive and cathartic—have always been where the quintet collectively excel. Yes, there’s a push and pull between where they’ve been and where they’re going, but then Talbot and co. have refused to stay still, always tweaking the space in which they operate. For the moments of guitar-driven aggression here such as ‘Dancer’—a paean to a different kind of community than they’ve written about before, made for the dancefloor as much as it is for the mosh pit, ‘collide us while we work it out’ chorus and all—and ‘Hall and Oates’, a no-holds-barred bruiser about the transformative power of togetherness—they are countered by snapshots of vulnerability and experimentation.

With Nigel Godrich (also known as the sixth member of Radiohead) behind the boards, backed up by Bowen and previous collaborator Kenny Beats, the tenderness behind ‘POP POP POP’ and ‘Grace’ rings true. The former leans heavily into melodic drone and soundscapes, allowing Talbot’s more confident singing voice to take flight, a song that needs the additional context of CRAWLER to have its full effect. If that album loosened the band’s self-imposed genre shackles, TANGK snaps them clean off. The latter song, meanwhile, tips the cap to Godrich’s own production history in a manner which is so unlike IDLES that it may provoke a double take from listeners who haven’t yet encountered it as a single. That ‘love is the thing’ lyrical motif pops up again among atmosphere, beauty and dramatic, swelling strings (that would lead almost perfectly into ‘Dancer’; they’re flipped on the tracklist but we digress) – aiming for a different kind of impact than the one normally associated with the band, and smashing it out of the park, into orbit.

The album’s been talked about as a reset comparable to Kid A, and while it’s not that sort of all-bets-are-off commitment—with traces of the four records which proceeded it popping up every so often, as ‘Jungle’ calls back to the very best stuff on Brutalism with Beavis’s tribal, dexterous drumming front and centre—the band have realised that their past glories will still exist regardless, and there’s no point chasing them five albums in.It’s important to manage expectations—their own, their audience’s—but in doing so they’ve created an album that has plenty to hook in new listeners while appealing to the die-hards. ‘Roy’ and ‘A Gospel’ are a harrowing one-two punch of emotional exorcism; the latter a devastating breakup song which displays Talbot at his lowest.

For all the musical and lyrical highs here, the shade makes the light shine all the brighter, and it’s the optimism, the freudenfreude, that punches through in the end, typified by the closing pair of ‘Gratitude’—a song that hits so much harder taken in the context of Talbot’s battles with addiction, loss and grief (‘No righteous hand will hold / The stories I have told /So I will say / That gratitude cuts through my veins’)—and ‘Monolith’, perhaps the record’s most disarming moment, a gentle comedown closer they haven’t penned since the days of ‘Slow Savage’ seven years ago, allowing the album to ride off into the sunset with a clarinet solo of all things. If you think that couldn’t possibly work, then you owe it to yourself to give TANGK the time it deserves. A monument to the ‘if you build it, they will come’ ethos; the sound of a band who’ve finally arrived after they’ve had shoulder to grindstone for 15 years, ready to embrace the moment. All is love and love is all.



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