Idles: Tangk

On their fifth studio album in seven years, Bristol, England post-punk band Idles continue their sonic evolution by pairing producers Kenny Beats, who helmed the band’s 2021 full-length, Crawler, with Nigel Godrich, a producer best known for twiddling the knobs on every Radiohead LP except Pablo Honey. The result is Tangk, a record that finds singer Joe Talbot delivering his vocals in a range of disparate styles to accommodate his collaborators’ genre-jumping tendencies. From the sexy croon he employs on songs like “Roy” and “A Gospel” to his trademark cockney bark on “Gift Horse” and “Dancer,” Talbot displays a range that more than manages to fit the mood on each of Tangk’s eleven tracks.

“IDEA 01” opens Tangk gently with a lightly thumped bass drum paired with tinkling pianos and airy effects. Here, Talbot emotes beautifully, offering up a few sad, poignant lines depicting a struggling family. The moment concludes with Talbot repeating the line, “These are the things you lost in the fire,” before Godrich’s moody synths move us into the album’s second song, and third single, “Gift Horse”. As if having been held back by Tangk’s opener, the band enters, laying out a nervous, warped rhythm section that builds tension under Talbot’s lyrics that analogize racehorse imagery with the intense love of a woman. Each time the chorus rolls around, the band explodes gloriously before reigning (no pun intended) themselves back in to rebuild the tension. “POP POP POP” follows and is immediately reminiscent of Amnesiac-era Radiohead. The song works nicely as an idiosyncratic ear reset before the back-to-back R&B-inspired numbers “Roy” and “A Gospel” stroll in to close out Tangk’s first half.

The album’s excellent lead single, “Dancer”, kicks off side B in fine fashion, coupling Idles with LCD Soundsystem to create a perfect dance-punk moment that would fit in seamlessly on any electroclash playlist. “Grace” may be Tangk’s only misfit. Idles pull out something that, musically, is at once oddly reminiscent of the back-and-forth two chord structure of U2’s “Numb” but has Talbot attempting something more vocally akin to Rattle and Hum’s “All I Want Is You”. The short, spiky “Hall & Oates” is Idles’ punky tribute to man love. The next pair of tracks find the band exploring outré rhythms. “Jungle” has guitarists Mark Bowen and Lee Kiernan strumming out a jagged pattern over a beat that sounds like something cribbed from a Moondog record. Meanwhile, “Gratitude”, Tangk’s penultimate song, leans heavily on a rhythm built on drummer Jon Beavis’ hi-hat and a shaking tambourine.

Tangk is concluded with the oddly jazzy and percussion-free “Monolith”. Here, Talbot hums and sings, just above a whisper, nine lines of cryptic poetry before a moody saxophone emerges and solos for less than a half-minute to end the album. Apart from the standout single “Dancer”, Tangk’s first half is stronger than its second. Regardless, Joe Talbot and company prove they’re capable of more than just the post-hardcore of their earliest albums and the post-punk revival they demonstrated on Crawler. Tangk’s eclecticism is part of its charm, and the record’s exciting singles prove Idles are capable of cultivating greatness from a range of genres.

Rating: 7.3/10

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