Punk rockers Idles have returned with their highly anticipated third studio album. Despite all the expectation Ultra Mono is a good example of what modern punk can be; a politically driven album that focuses on themes of embracing yourself.
One of the strongest, stand out tracks on the album is ‘Model Village,’ a song which takes a look at the narrow mindset many have in small British towns. The Bristolian five piece really knock it out of the park with this one – anyone living in a smaller town can definitely relate to every lyric Joe Talbot screams down the mic in his signature style. Sure to ignite mosh pits when gigs open back up, it’s my favourite track on the album.
‘War’ provides a thunderous opening which fans will know and love. The song is a classic example of Idles, with a chantable chorus that remains lyrically clever. Add the tight, pristine drumming of Jon Beavis and the manic guitar playing of both Mark Bowen and Lee Kiernan and you have the sound which so many people find synonymous with the band.
Speaking in an interview about the album Talbot said, “I think ‘Ultra Mono’ is vigorously Idles. It’s fluent in Idles language because we’ve just been able to take baby steps every moment, make mistakes, and no one’s fucking at our gigs so we can make mistakes and come back stronger. Rather than like, ‘Ah that was a shit gig, no one’s going to come and watch us again because everyone in London that mattered came to that one that we were terrible at.’ Do you know what I mean?”
However the album doesn’t come without its weaker songs. Not bad by any means, just not strictly the quality Idles usually produce. ‘Ne Touche Pas Moi’ is a song about gig etiquette and mosh pits. It has a nice message and on the whole, is well meaning. However the chorus of “CONSENT, CONSENT, CONSENT” is perhaps a bit underwhelming, especially when we consider what the single could have been. The song brings up the important issue of toxic masculinity at gigs, which doesn’t get spoken about enough, but there was the potential to say and do much more.
Idles provide a new sound towards the end of the album. Released as a single for the album, ‘A Hymn’ is a slow, introspective, almost ballad. A jarring, atmospheric song, it gives fans a new perspective on the band. The technically simple make-up of the track makes it all the more effective; rather than an ‘in your face’ style, the song takes a step back and deals with issues such as body imaging and loving yourself.
Not one to shy away from mental health, Idles come back with ‘Anxiety.’ Reminiscent of ‘1049 Gotho’ from Brutalism, which was written about experiences with depression, the newer track obviously takes on the issue of anxiety. It’s a positive song with a positive message delivered in the classic Idles style.
Overall, Idles again have defied expectation and beaten what many consider the ‘tough third album.’ Ultra Mono provides a neoliberalist look at recent events and brings the message of positivity and togetherness in a year where divisions are being made left, right and centre. Whether you’ve never listened to Idles or a seasoned veteran following them since 2009, the new album is well worth a listen.