Socialist Worker

Raging class anger on Idles’ bitter new album Ultra Mono

The latest offering from this guitar-driven five piece has no shortage of fights to pick, with assaults on war, sexism, racism and poverty, writes Alan Kenny

Issue No. 2723

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Ultra Mono—a robust response to capitalism


On Idles’ third album the band shows that their earlier social justice themes were no flash in the pan.

In fact as capitalism drives humanity to ever greater disaster the Bristol formed band seems determined to have an even more robust response. Musically they’re on great form too.

It’s difficult not to be cheered up by this raucous high-energy guitar driven five piece. 

The pro-immigrant Danny Nedelko from their last album Joy As An Act of Resistance was so boisterously charming you could almost imagine it being sung on a football terrace.

The first track on Ultra Mono is an anti-war song and contains the lyric, “We’re dying for the stone-faced liars.” 

On the second track lead singer Joe Talbot sings “So I’ll raise my pink fist and say that black is beautiful.” 

On Anxiety, “Our government hates the poor/Cold leaders, cold class war.” It goes on like this. 

And the excellent Carcinogenic, “Where were you when the ship sank?/Probably not queuing for foodbanks.”

Across the album’s 12 tracks there are certainly many more calls to action than we get from Keir Starmer.

And here’s another Idles album peppered with nostalgic popular references— lyrically and occasionally musically too.

On MR MOTIVATOR they once again summon all manner of sporting heroes, artists and singers to inspire us. 

Tarquin

Debut album Brutalism’s amusing track Well Done with its “Why don’t you get a job?/Even Tarquin has a job/Mary Berry’s got a job/So why don’t you get a job?” is echoed with another TV chef reference. 

“Like Delia Smith after ten Chardonnays baking me a nice cookie.” It’s somehow intrinsically funny.

The raging anti-sexual harassment anthem Ne touche pas moi appears to reference one of the late 80s film Dirty Dancing’s, most famous lines, “This is my dance space... this is your dance space.” 

Model Village is a scathing assault on a reactionary worldview. “Just give them an anthem and they’ll sing it/Still they don’t know the meanings in it/Just saluting flags cause it’s British/

“Idiot spirits thinking they’re kindred/Model low crime rate in the village/Model race model hate model village.”

Danke, the album’s closer, is a loving tribute to the hugely influential late singer/songwriter Daniel Johnston, who died last year.

In 2019, Jason Williamson from the excellent Nottingham band Sleaford Mods publicly criticised Idles for “class appropriation”. Apparently, Joe Talbot isn’t as working class as he makes out. 

Idles, upset by this from a band they admired, respond directly to this at several points on the album—bitter but not without humour.

Surely, the point is that the band have firmly picked a side. 

On Ultra Mono they only deepen the trend—suggested by the title itself. 

That they’ve stuck to their guns when we need these voices more than ever is a real tribute to them. 

That musical creativity, and a blistering live reputation, make the band a sweet proposition.

Ultra Mono by Idles, is released on 25 September

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