Idles: Ultra Mono review – A bolt of righteous anger and furious energy
They staked their territory with 2017’s Brutalism and strengthened their claim on English punk rock the following year with Joy as an Act of Resistance. Now, Idles are ready for war. Frontman Joe Talbot says as much in the opening track, a blistering whirlwind of guitars and some of the most impressive rock drumming (courtesy of Jon Beavis) you’ll hear on record this year.
The Bristol band are undoubtedly retreading old ground with these songs: themes of social commentary, political disillusionment and the indictment of toxic masculinity all feature.
Even so, there are some new elements in the mix, with hip-hop producer Kenny Beats providing programming, and guest slots from Savages’ Jehnny Beth, Bad Seed Warren Ellis and even jazz pianist Jamie Cullum (who provides the album’s most surprising moment on Kill Them with Kindness).
The bells and whistles are irrelevant – these are simply ferocious rock songs bubbling with a righteous anger. Anxiety and the squally riffs of Reigns are frothing transfusions of energy; The Lover and A Hymn burn with a thundering sense of menace; the punchy Mr Motivator name-checks LeBron James and David Attenborough in the same breath; Carcinogenic’s woozy strummed guitar is a moment of elegance in feral terrain.
There is plenty to return to here – if you have the stamina. Even if you’re recumbent while listening to Ultra Mono, you’ll still need a bit of a sit down afterwards.