Idles: Tangk – Dancing deftly between a sense of love and anger

The band’s fifth album is their best yet, thanks in part to a subtle shift in sensibility

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Artist: Idles
Label: Partisan Records

James Baldwin once said, “Love has never been a popular movement and no one has ever really wanted to be free”. Idles’ fifth studio album explores this subject in the band’s own way, and the result is probably their best album yet. Part of the difference is a subtle shift in sensibility, and part is the production team of Kenny Beats, Mark Bowen and, in particular, Nigel Godrich, whose nuanced creative choices are peppered throughout.

The title of the album could suggest a thankfulness or a militaristic tilt (perhaps a militaristic sense of thankfulness?); Joe Talbot has said that this is their “album of gratitude and power. All love songs”, beginning with Idea 01, which marries a pleasingly muscular drum beat with the tendrils of a sombre piano melody that flies in and settles around Talbot’s voice. Gift Horse brings us back to some of Idles’ previous work, with driving guitars that mirror a kind of constructive anger amid a prescient punk pomp.

Pop Pop Pop, with its lovely drums, has some brilliant production touches, with glitches that burnish. The jazz-inflected drums of Roy complement Talbot’s instruction for us to “choke out the sun”. A Gospel is stirring, with celestial piano and scuzzy guitars, and with Talbot’s voice so beautifully recorded that it starts to feel as if he’s at the crook of your neck, relaying this tale, the more intimate songs revealing a careworn grace, with the ghost of classical music haunting throughout.

Dancer enlists the backing vocals of LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy and Nancy Whang, harnessing elements of that band, but it is more of a meditation on the bond between artists and fans. Grace calls forth early Joy Division, elegantly exploring a place where there is “no god, no king, I said love is the thing”. The curiously titled Hall & Oates conjures a grimy piece of poetry, bringing to mind John Lydon.


Jungle artfully weaves a thread from The Clash to The Walkmen, or perhaps a deep cut from The Strokes. Gratitude, with its swarming guitars, is all shape-shifting, a snarl-ballad, resembling a statement of intent, both pleading and engaging. Monolith is a disarmingly beautiful closing of the doors, like an old folk song that found its way towards an ambient wash, served by that glowing, brilliant production again.

Tangk is an album that demands close listening, a defiant act of soft resistance, where Idles dance deftly between a sense of anger and love, using both as an energy. That tension has produced a very compelling album.

Siobhán Kane

Siobhán Kane is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in culture