IDLES: Ultra Mono, an album that 2020 desperately needed. The album’s restless energy and upbeat anger reflects the chaos and uncertainty of our current world. This album is filled with intelligent and powerful statements covering areas such as Race, Gender, Class Division, Austerity, the British Empire and Consent (just to name a few…), an impressive range of issues within 42 minutes. Ultra Mono was released on September 25th, 2020, where the music magazine Louder Than War awarded it a 10 out of 10 and described it as “the album of their career.”
Back in 2017, IDLES came to fame with their career defining album ‘Brutalism’, placing the band into one of England’s best up and coming rock bands. The Bristolian band consists of Joe Talbot on vocals, Mark Bowen (guitar), Lee Kiernan (guitar), Adam Devonshire (bass) and Jon Beavis (drums). The band has faced a wide reception, with critics labelling them as ‘performative activists’ who have shouted their way to the top, which is hard to believe when looking into the passions and beliefs intertwined in the band’s material. Within a Facebook post made by Joe himself, they explain what the album really means to them:
“ULTRA MONO is the acceptance of now and I and you. We are not the same but behold something together that is true: the moment. I cannot control anything but my ideas, my actions and my emotions, I cannot control yours. In allowing our art to be momentary, we give ourselves and you the opportunity to perceive who we all are now as truth. It is an engine of all that we can’t control: our race, our age, our class and our past in the form of what we control absolutely – our music, our now. Joy is still an act of resistance. No more apologies. We will work hard and work honestly. Ultra Mono is joy’s engine and it goes. We hope that you feel a sense of strength and purpose from listening to Ultra Mono. It is meant to fill you with the violence love and the rhythm of now. You are now. You are all. All is love.”
– Joe Talbot, via Facebook
In IDLES’ own homemade fashion, the album opens with a monster of a message, stating “This means war” Anti-war! War!”, an explosive point surrounding the idea of letting go of intrusive thoughts/ negativity and just being in the moment. The politically charged topics are made incredibly clear from the get-go with no need for beating around the bush, as heard in the song ‘Grounds’:
“Saying my race and class aint suitable/So I raise my pink fist and say black is beautiful.”
The toxicity of our country’s current political climate is made evident, where nationalism is a huge flaw within Britain (heavily featured within the album’s hit ‘Model Village’), with references to the newspaper ‘The Sun’ and of course Brexit. Their call for ‘strength in numbers’ insinuates the idea that the demise of the status quo can only be started through solidarity and cooperation, where the songs’ powerful drums and heavy guitar riffs only exacerbate the importance of being loud and angry, where peaceful protests can only get us so far. The punk/jungle song ‘Carcinogenic’ also holds a powerful message to today’s political climate, where the band perfectly summarizes the real carcinogenic in society as inequality. Their use of instrumentals also reflects the idea of mundanity and exploitation of modern life with the use of distortion and repetition within the song’s structure.
“Cramming people into high-rises, while selling their welfare for low prices/Public spending gets big slices, while ignoring the true crisis”The ‘in-your-face’ shouting and fearlessness is exactly what the UK’s rock scene needs right now, where politics is an important part of what makes rock music great. Its self-aware anger combined with great wit and a mosh-pit worthy guitar riff compels the audience to finally want to make passionate changes to how we live our daily lives and how others do too.
Picture credit: Alexander Kellner