“This snowflake’s an avalanche” sings Joe Talbot on IDLES’ defiant celebration of social conscience, Scum. It’s one of the best lines from their sophomore album Joy As An Act of Resistance, evoking the blend of vulnerability and awesome power that makes the band so special. To be part of the sweaty mass at the front of the Tuning Fork in Auckland last night certainly felt like being swept away... in an overwhelming surge of energy, anger, love, grief, adrenaline and tenderness.
Opening track Colossus builds painstakingly, layering throbbing bass and drum with Talbot’s increasingly anguished vocal chants until the tension is taught as a wire. The rapt crowd rolled about like water being slowly brought to boil, until the song’s dramatic gear shift into a snarling trad punk assault, at which point they exploded into a frenzy. “I’m like Stone Cold Steve Austin,” hollers Talbot; “I put homophobes in coffins.”
There’s something special about a group of hairy, tattooed, shouty men telling their fans to love themselves and each other for who they are, to spit at hatred and division, to embrace each other and cry and be vulnerable. Song after angry, noisy passionate song, Idles exhort us to be our best. From pro-immigrant singalong Danny Nedelko, to feminist paean Mother, and perhaps most important, Samaritans, which rails against toxic masculinity.
It’s no grim march of polemic though- Idles live are the most fun we’ve had at a gig in a long time. The band cavort like happy weirdos, especially guitarist Mark Bowen, who swings his hips salaciously and flings himself around with abandon. The lasting image will be of the band dancing with lucky punters on stage, handing instruments off for fans to jam on, waving a cymbal about and all in all acting very silly.
In an industry that is rife with irony, apathy or worse- insincerity, Idles are are exactly what we need right now.