Sunday, September 06, 2020

Idles Make Abbey Road Their Home With Lock-In Sessions

IDLES have conquered almost the entire world since their debut album Brutalism released in 2017. The punk-but-don’t-call-us-that 5-piece, hailing from Bristol, are a force to be reckoned with, and to see them strut their stuff inside Abbey Road’s iconic studio space was akin to watching tigers in a glass cage. The release of 3rd full-length album Ultra Mono is firmly on the horizon, but this is more than promotion or an exercise, not merely a fancy show-off of who they know now that could get them a gig at Abbey Road, this feels like something more.

Despite the “Lock-In Sessions” title, IDLES explode out of lockdown, a word that would have seemed so foreign but 7 months ago, now seared into the minds of everyone in the world. This was, in a word, escapism. Escapism with a conscience.

I caught the middle of the triple-header of live-streamed sets held across the 29th and 30th August. An hour of fan-favourites, the odd deep-cut, and the hair-raising singles recently released left one totally satisfied, while also gasping for more, such is the way with all IDLES live-shows. 

Opening, in typical fashion, with “Colossus”, a song that seems to get slower and slower every time it’s played live, this already feels just a little special. This forms the “one” in a one-two punch as new single “Grounds” comes racing straight after, as Joe Talbot’s roaring call to arms “Do you hear that thunder? That’s the sound of strength in numbers.” is delivered with more fury and passion than I ever thought possible. In a room where musical history has been made countless times, IDLES were writing their own, very important chapter.

This is IDLES though, so of course the set wasn’t without its absurdity and comedy in appropriate measure. Guitarist Lee Kiernan scaling the wall during the breakdown in “Love Song”, in which Talbot and Mark Bowen often take the opportunity for an impromptu cover anyway, eliciting a screeching verse of “Lee [Lucy] In The Sky With Diamonds”. Talbot’s dry, cutting mumbles between songs; “Don’t worry, I haven’t got back into drinking and doing drugs, I’m just really unfit”, Adam “Dev” Devonshire playing his BFG role to perfection, and Jon Neavis beating the drums in his now signature cartoonish style all combine into giving a sensation you don’t get from anything, except for when watching IDLES play live. 

“Rachel Khoo”, “Reptilia”, “Queens” and “White Privilege” make for an unorthodox, yet searing, middle to the set after the singalong spectacular of the opening quartet of tunes. As the set draws to a close, the final trio of songs is the black-ink full stop on that aforementioned chapter IDLES are writing, although there was still another set to come after this. 

“Danny Nedelko” is as singalong yet relevant and powerful as ever, Talbot with his traditional blessing to all immigrants before the song gets underway in its unique, screaming way. Most recently-released single “Model Village” makes for the penultimate song, a snarling, spitting anthem that tears a hole in toxic English attitudes and it does not disappoint when tackled live, as Talbot screams his way through the chorus in any even more deranged and broken way than on the recorded version. In a helpful addition, Talbot jokes “for those who don’t understand nuance, the village is England”. 

The set closes with a vicious “Well Done” that included a snippet of Zed Bias’ “Neighbourhood” in the bridge, and I can’t think of a better phrase to use for IDLES and this event. Well Done.

These might have been the Lock-In Sessions, but IDLES are continuing their breakout. Where it stops, I don’t think anyone knows, but I, for one, hope it isn’t for a very, very long time.

Ultra Mono is out 25th September on Partisan Records.

The setlist was: Colossus, Grounds, Mother, Love Song, Rachel Khoo, Reptilia, White Privilege, Queens, Danny Nedelko, Model Village and Well Done.

By Harry Green

Instagram: @h.green_

Twitter: @hgreen91_

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