Published Aug 27, 2018Quashing any fears of a sophomore slump, Bristol punks IDLES have delivered what will ultimately be hailed as one of 2018's most vital records with Joy As an Act of Resistance.
The quintet proved themselves as a promising force on their debut LP Brutalism, self-released just last year, and on their second record, the band succeed in taking both their sound and subject matter to new heights. Joy As an Act of Resistance bluntly tackles topics like vulnerability, toxic masculinity, self-love and immigration, inviting others to take an insightful look at themselves and the space they occupy.
Album opener "Colossus" packs a ferocious punch; the ominous, controlled hits of Jon Beavis's drumsticks on the rim of his snare creep up until the band explodes in a chaotic flurry of noise. The moment you think it's over, it abruptly turns on its heel and transforms from a beastly slow-burner into an upbeat, FIDLAR-esque sing-along. "Never Fight a Man With a Perm" is equal parts frenetic and funny, featuring cheeky nods to Charlie Sheen and Michael Keaton.
The record's entire first side chugs along at a consistently fervent pace, every song boldly standing out as both memorable and integral. Despite its self-deprecating title, "I'm Scum" carries itself with defiant jubilance, while "Danny Nedelko" is an invigorating anthem that advocates for unity. Elsewhere, "June," penned by frontman Joe Talbot during the days following his daughter Agatha's stillbirth, is intimate and devastating. "Baby shoes for sale: never worn," he wails, referencing the famously tragic six-word short story over a steady, processional drumbeat.
Swooping in to kick off Joy As an Act of Resistance's second side, "Samaritans" picks up the pieces to craft a rallying cry that enforces the importance of loving yourself and trying. Talbot tackles Brexit on the tentatively hopeful "Great" as he urges that "change isn't a crime," and critiques the media's unrealistic influence on "Television."
While each of the record's 12 tracks are solid enough to resonate on their own, they meld with one another to create a cohesive and fully realized body of work here. IDLES turn trauma and anger into affirming lessons on Joy As an Act of Resistance, crafting a cathartic masterpiece that wears its heart — broken, but still beating — on its sleeve. (Partisan)