Ok. You love, us. You don’t love us. I’ll explain, if you’ll allow me to shouting lady. You think you love us but it’s the idea of us you love. The important thing to remember is that we are a vehicle for looking into yourselves and loving yourselves. We are not Gods. We are not fucking leaders. We are musicians that are carrying your message, not ours. Fuck all that fame bullocks, it is a cancer. We are just as important as you, do you understand? The only reason we are here is because of you. So, we love you as much as you love you, and you love us. Thank you very much. Speaking of love, Love Song. Joe Talbot, Idles
The relationship between the city of Boston, Massachusetts and the British is, as most with an elementary understanding of American history know, rather complicated and turbulent to say the least. However, on a night that saw two bands ruled by The Crown arrive in New England there was anything but strife or dissension. In fact, tonight was marked by joy, nay love, as an act of resistance. First up were the Calgarian quartet Preoccupations (f.k.a. Viet Cong). Not one for hyperbole I will defer to the words of Joe Talbot, lead singer of Idles, “I believe they’re one of the best bands in the world, ever…and they are beautiful fucking human beings.
Opening their set with “Newspaper Spoons”, an early track off of their debut (self-titled at the time of release) album Viet Cong, was a surprise but provided an early foil of distortion and dissonance for their more recent and polished songs. Interestingly enough, their set was bookended by an even earlier song released exclusively as a tour only cassette in 2013 aptly titled Cassette. With the exception of one other Viet Cong song, “March of Progress” the other two thirds of their set was comprised of Preoccupations songs from Preoccupations and New Material. Their set was concise and poised with moments of teeth gritting and hair flinging but not in the same manner that the boys from Bristol would find fitting. Preoccupations are far more introspective and analytical than the overt and explosive Idles. This very difference is precisely what makes the pairing work so well as was evidence on this night and I’d imagine throughout this tour.
On my social media feed I found one comment state that: “They [Idles] might be the most important band in recent memory. Just saying.” To which another user replied: “Wrong. They are!”. It may not be the members themselves that are the most important but as Talbot states in the opening quote, “We are musicians that are carrying your message, not ours.” Bands willing to sacrifice what is popular and financially lucrative for what is in line with their fans’ and their own ethical and moral beliefs is sadly among the radical minority in the 21st Century music world. What makes this band so impressive is a combination of their aggressive sound and their heartfelt, meaningful, and at times vulnerable lyrics. Addressing issues including politics, fame, advertising, immigration, addiction, Feminism, love, male toxicity, and mental health their songs confront the status quo with unflinching, uncompromising, fury and fervor. These are but a few themes found in their lyrics which echo and I dare say advance the messages of Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie for example. One may scoff at such comparisons but I don’t so much as hesitate in making them, even despite the years of service that differentiates them at the time of this review. Idles are indeed thee most important band of the twenty-teens and are poised to dominate the twenty-twenties because of their steadfast assault on inequality of all forms.
In what has become and oft opener and the opening track from 2018’s sophomore release Joy As An Act of Resistance “Colossus” set the tone for an evening of energy, enthusiasm, and a call to action. Talbot was free with his words between songs introducing their ideas or echoing the subsequent messages of their songs. To witness a cisgen white male comfortably and confidently rally thousands around the line “I kissed a boy and I liked it” is a sight to behold. Simply put, there is no more important band writing and performing punk rock in this era than Idles. As Talbot is now commonly quoted as saying about Joy As An Act of Resistance: “This album is an attempt to be vulnerable to our audience and to encourage vulnerability; a brave naked smile in this shitty new world.”
Honestly, the thought of writing a review of an Idles live show has been mentally paralyzing knowing I could never do it justice. I’ve done the best I can here in this review but if I were able to throw convention to the wind, my review would have read as a simple Haiku:
Listen to Idles.
Go see them live in concert.
Believe in Idles.
Idles are the real deal plain and simple. If you’ve seen them you already know this. If you’ve listened carefully you already know this. If you read this as a casual or new listener you are in for a life changing experience and I envy the journey that awaits you. Believe in Idles and the messages they deliver with poetic and political purpose.