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Idles: Ultra Mono review – pummelling riffs and desolate beauty – The Guardian

The ascent of Bristol punks Idles from thrilling cult live proposition to unlikely Top 5 album stars in 2018 was remarkable. It was even more so when you consider that their sound owes far less to the melodic pop smarts of regular chart-botherers Green Day and Blink-182 and more to the blunt-force trauma of the avowedly uncommercial Shellac and Fucked Up.

Idles’ third studio album has all of the elements that made Joy As an Act of Resistance such a breakout success: pummelling riffs, muscular choruses seemingly precision-tooled for being bellowed back into the band’s faces by a sweaty crowd and Joe Talbot’s distinctive turn of phrase. The curious mix of earnestness and unambiguous anger, slightly heavy-handed satire (the Brexit-inspired Model Village perhaps could have made its point without mentioning “gammon”) and brilliant absurdism (“Kathleen Hanna with bear claws grabbing Trump by the pussy”) perhaps shouldn’t work, and yet does so.

Ultra Mono also finds them widening their sound, taking in collaborators as varied as the Jesus Lizard’s David Yow, Jamie Cullum and Jehnny Beth. Indeed, the album’s second half suggests they are not prepared to be hidebound by genre: Talbot conjures the swagger of Baxter Dury on The Lover, while the band pull their punches on the downbeat A Hymn and create something desolate yet beautiful.

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