The boisterous and aggressive Bristol punks IDLES are back with their raucous fourth record – ‘Crawler’. Serving as a post-pandemic follow-up to their 2020 record ‘Ultra Mono’, ‘Crawler’s ambitious experimentation and stylistic choices make it their best work yet.
After frontman Joe Talbot suffered a near-death experience with a motorcyclist speeding past his car leaving mere inches of space, the fragility of life and death was so blatantly on display. Talbot then reflected on his own chronicle both literally and metaphorically, take for example his past with addiction and the grief of losing a child. As a result, 'Crawler' proves to be IDLES most visceral and introspective work to date.
Despite the overarching themes in IDLES work continuously touching upon the poetic aspects of grief, sadness, and heartbreak – the band’s ability to juxtapose this with raging beauty and humour is stronger than ever on ‘Crawler’. To hear Talbot compare the body of a mangled motorcyclist to a “jellyroll” dessert on opening track ‘MTT 420 RR’ and text messages from his ex-drug dealer translated to lyrics on the violent track ‘Wizz’ makes for a fresh listen – as if you’re hearing IDLES for the very first time again.
The dark humour that displays these forks in the proverbial road of life, and the consequences of choosing a direction, form the narrative backbone of ‘Crawler’. As usual, IDLES have a lot to say about the way of the world and the challenges it continues to present to humanity. It’s a record that encapsulates the collective deterioration of the mental and physical health of humankind as it reaches breaking point. The Tories were IDLES sworn enemy before the pandemic, but now they receive more scathing vitriol than ever – take the standout track ‘The New Sensation’ which digs at Rishi Sunak calling artists to retrain in other jobs during the height of lockdowns.
Sonically, ‘Crawler’ sees IDLES at their most daring and ambitious. Whilst their staple heavy punk rock sound keeps together the foundation of the record, various genre-blends are present that add a whole new element to IDLES heavy sonic bliss. The lead single ‘The Beachland Ballroom’ sees frontman Talbot utilise an entirely new vocal style. He rests his voice from the gnarling and primal screams and adopts a much softer and soulful vocal take for the first half of the track. It’s an interesting new sound that adds a whole new element to IDLES’ sonic palette, but it would’ve been nice to see this played with more. The record also sees more electronic elements that reflect 80s new wave that continue to add new levels of flavour.
IDLES' fourth record in just as many years is their most ambitious, most introspective, and most powerful to date.
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Words: Kieran Macadie
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