Baby shoes, for sale, never worn...
Brimming with honesty, truth and personal pain, 'Joy As An Act Of Resistance' by Idles is the album of 2018, writes Barry Egan
You will struggle to find an album as compelling as Joy As An Act Of Resistance by Bristol's Idles featuring as its cover a picture of a brawl at a wedding in 1968. You would also struggle to find an album so brimming with honesty and truth, vulnerability and profound personal pain.
Lead singer Joseph Talbot writes in a very real way about emotions, about impotent male rage, on this, a follow-up to their much-trumpeted 2017 debut Brutalism (which was written after his mother died).
Talbot believes that we are generally bored with pretty people saying nothing. Talbot - who is neither pretty nor prone to saying nothing - formed Idles in 2011 "and [life] started to become easier because I realised I had been just killing myself", he told DIY magazine. "Losing friends and making enemies and getting arrested and all sorts of shit that was unnecessary and caustic. It's carcinogenic behaviour, y'know? It doesn't do anyone any good to f**k yourself over, so I realised that music was a good way of channelling my confusion and my regrets, my love, my hate. Trying to get it out in a positive way."
"The mask of masculinity is a mask/ A mask that's wearing me," Joe sings on Samaritans from Joy As An Act Of Resistance, before adding, later, "This is why you never see your father cry". Joe sings on Television: "If someone talked to you, the way you do to you, I'd put their teeth through - love yourself."
There was also the oddly brilliant but remarkably true Never Fight A Man With A Perm. Joe told Louder Than War magazine: "I'd never fight a man with a perm. I'm serious. I'm not f**king around. Like many people these days, I haven't had a fight in a long time... for some reason. It's a good thing. You have to be really hard to have a perm because people are too scared to tell you you look like a bellend."
Talbot has his own look. Indeed The Guardian recently described Talbot's look, "with slick-backed hair, tattoos and a sizeable moustache", as making him appear like as if "he has walked off a 19th Century Mississippi paddle steamer, having fleeced the other passengers in card games."
One of the most powerful songs on Joy As An Act Of Resistance is also one of the most powerful songs of 2018: June deals with the devastation brought on by the death of Joe and his partner's daughter Agatha in childbirth in June, 2017. The heartbreaking refrain of "Baby shoes, for sale, never worn" is difficult to hear; imagine what it must be like to sing.
"There are so many people out there who probably think they are weird or different because they have lost their child," Talbot told New Musical Express. "Because there is a point of loneliness where you think you are the only person in the world grieving at that point."
Talbot also said recently that he wrote the song for himself, and that it is the only song where he's ever written the lyrics first - "and will probably remain so. I struggled to see where it would fit on the album because it was so personal, but after hearing the riff Lee [Kiernan, guitarist] wrote, I realised that I did want to show my pain. I wanted to illuminate the importance of grieving parents' right to call themselves mothers and fathers. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to play that song live".
"We struggled a lot getting over losing our daughter," he told Louder Than War magazine. "But we're getting there and the band has been amazing. Me and my partner are building a home together metaphorically, not literally. It's one day at a time shit. But at the moment it's good." At the moment, the fearless Joy As An Act Of Resistance from Idles - "the band we need for the era we live in" - is the album of 2018.
Idles play the Iveagh Gardens in Dublin on July 11, 2019. Tickets, priced €35, are available from Ticketmaster.
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