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TANGK – IDLES – (Partisan)

“I needed love. So I made it. I gave love out to the world and it feels like magic. This is our album of gratitude and power. All love songs. All is love.”

The above quote from lead singer Joe Talbot would lead us to believe that TANGK is their very own 2024: The Love Album (one for all you Carter USM fans).

After the opening salvo of 2017’s fiery debut Brutalism and the welcome-to-the-mainstream mission statement that was 2018’s Joy As An Act Of Resistance, they then blew all of that up with the essence diluting suicide note of the old IDLES which was the 2020 Number One Ultra Mono. Album number four, just a year later, Crawler was a massive gear change that acted as an understated culture shock, which saw them change their base audience from people loving the ‘love yourself’ shoutiness (Stewart Lee once perfectly described them as “Snowflake Oi“) to those that wanted something a touch deeper. And it’s those folk that are going to get the most from TANGK, this is not a fair weather fan record that can be dipped in and out of, there’s no ‘Danny Nedelko/Never Fight A Man With A Perm’ screamalongs.

The signs are all there just how much this album differs from what’s gone before, the main change being on the production team, which now consists of Kenny Beats, guitarist Mark Bowen and Nigel Godrich and due to his coming onboard, it would be easy to use lazy Radiohead comparisons by calling TANGK “IDLES’ Kid A”, but there’s so much more to it than that.

It begins with the first song they came up with for the album, hence its title. ‘IDEA 01′ thunders into life with a thumping beat and rippling piano, Talbot’s stable, relaxed vocal belying what’s going on around him, as the closing menacing drums kick straight into ‘Gift Horse’ which we know already from its release a while ago, with its furious “look at him go” chorus and bull starring video, its groove making it something of an outlier in the first half.

‘POP POP POP’ brings a lovely word into common usage, ‘freudenfreude’, meaning enjoying the joy of others good fortune, over a beat that could have come straight from the opening of Original Pirate Material. The rapping of Talbot is as welcome as it is unexpected, it’s starkness makes you think about how interesting it’ll be to see how this introspection translates live, especially in those larger rooms, the big outdoor gigs and further-up-the-bill festival slots,  how it will affect their cult-like (in a positive way) live shows, will it enhance the feeling of a mass gathering love-in, surely it must.

The opening trio are such disparate strands of the same thread, then it leaves you with no real idea as to where it’s going and if your guess is an assured, passionate, soulful vocal chorus over a guitar straight from ‘The House Of The Rising Sun’, then you’d be correct. ‘Roy’ sees Talbot showing a stunning vocal versatility that we have only seen in parts before, think of ‘The Beachland Ballroom‘ from Crawler and times that by a thousand.

And just as the breathlessness has subsided after such a powerful performance, this just leads into the despair and heartbreak of ‘A Gospel’, a tale of a couple parting in astoundingly intimate detail, “We weren’t meant to last, I know you better, I’m your half, just tell me darling and I will be your past” with such sweet sorrow in the accompanying piano and strings.

If it’s a love album then it’s not straightforward, there’s a darkness at it’s heartbeat. Not only are there no big loud chest-beaters,  Talbot barely raises his voice above a whisper, which makes it all the more sombre, almost menacing at points, but permanently on the edge of fragility.

The first two singles, the swish and swagger of the LCD Soundsystem-infused ‘Dancer’ and the drum machine driven ‘Grace‘ with its simple “no god no king, I said love is the thing” message arrive as a blessed relief to the gut punch intensity of the previous two songs and it’s from here that the emotional reins are loosened slightly musically and feel more abstract lyrically. ‘Hall and Oates’ (which feels like a love letter from Talbot to Bowen) shows off the most underrated rhythm section in music off to full effect and ‘Jungle‘, with it’s Adam And The Ants-esque tribal drums are the nearest one gets to the “Old IDLES”, almost as if they just want to prove to themselves that they’ve still got it in their locker to do loud, if they ever choose to go back there.

Gratitude‘ brings back the darkness, “I was having visions of ten million ways to die, I was having visions of ten people that might cry”, a reminder that it’s such a personal record, which makes it easy to forget that at times in the recent past we looked towards them to solve the world’s ills, but now it is more about self care, they can’t save the world if they can’t save themselves. It all ends with ‘Monolith’, Talbot sounds broken, yet full of hope, before what sounds like a clarinet fades out with a jazz-like interlude.

Kenny Beats and Bowen’s increased influence on proceedings are moulding their sound into something else, on a different level to what’s gone before, it’s a record that sounds like they had to make for themselves without a moment’s thought for who’s going to be listening to it, if only more bands were so selfish. There will be reviews that explain the music and lyrics, the sonic feel, in more precise detail, but that to me would be like spoiling the plot of a movie with Nth degree detail, this is a record that needs to be lived and loved by the individual, everyone will have the bits that speak to them, that relates to their life.

It’s a shame that people will have long made their minds up about IDLES, as this is a genuinely mind-changing record. But for those of us already on the right side of history, it is an extraordinary set of songs, it’s little wonder that they are one of the biggest bands in the country, and this record should put them in another stratosphere. This is an album by a band for those they love and for those that love them.

All is indeed love.


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.