One listen to the UK’s IDLES and you can’t deny the fierceness that surrounds their music. The band has a big attitude, plenty of opinions, and a snarl like no other band on the current scene. IDLES also has a front man in Joe Talbot that never takes a breath or break as he drives each track through your brain.
Following Brutalism (2017) and Joy As An Act of Resistance (2018), Ultra Mono is IDLES third album. It is a record again that plainly states IDLES view on the world and how they don’t give a shit about what you think about them. It is this chip on their shoulder that consistently flies off a controlled handle while Talbot delivers a machine gun style of lyrics that keep you on the edge of your seat.
“War” is one of the hardest hitting songs the band has released and it opens this album. When the anti-war track hits the line “Shh, shh, shh; That’s the sound of the children taker” it hits home a bit on the reality of their material. “Mr. Motivator” is not only one of the coolest and kick ass tracks the band has produced but probably one of my favorite singles I have heard this year. It is filled with clever wordplay that has some classic fun IDLES tongue in cheek moments that even states out loud when Talbot asks “How d’you like them clichés?”
Ultra Mono feels bigger than their previous two albums. It also sounds more produced as Nick Launay (Nick Cave, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Arcade Fire) and Adam ‘Atom’ Greenspan (Anna Calvi, Cut Copy) get the credit, while Kenny Beats (FKA Twigs, DaBaby, Vince Staples) provided additional help. The album also features guest vocals from Jehnny Beth (Savages), and additional guest contributions from Warren Ellis (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds), David Yow, and Jamie Cullum, which all combine to make Ultra Mono a much larger spectacle than we are used to seeing from the band.
All of the new spotlight clearly doesn’t hold IDLES back but maybe it does take a bit of the surprise out of Ultra Mono. Overall, the record is still solid but if you were ranking their output, Joy As An Act of Resistance I feel still reigns as their top bar. With that said, IDLES are a very important band right now as they call out everything like they see it. That transparency with the viciousness behind the music only leaves you with one thing to do with Ultra Mono – crank up the volume!
Key Tracks: “War” / “Mr. Motivator” / “Reigns”
Artists With Similar Fire: Protomartyr / Wax Chattels / METZ
Review History: Joy As An Act Of Resistance (2018)
-Reviewed by Thomas Wilde