Joy As An Act Of Resistance

An incendiary, vital drive from the Bristol band that strikes a midpoint between polemical and impactful

Most standard definitions of community (such as Merriam-Webster’s: “people with common interests living in a particular area”) fail to reference the sheer import of difference. A self-proclaimed ode to communities and the individuals that forge them, Idles’ second album resists that. It’s a fist-clenched celebration of the full spectrum of phenomena – inexplicable, crushing and totally joyous – that divides and unites us all.

Refining the single-minded sneer and spirit that made last year’s Brutalism one of the most emphatic and supremely fucked-off first moves from a British act in recent memory, Joy as an Act of Resistance is a feature-length confirmation of what many have long suspected: channelled via frontman Joe Talbot, the Bristol five-piece are striking a midpoint between polemical and impactful, the grit of which few contemporary guitar bands have any odds of outdoing.

While Brutalism filtered tales of trauma, self-sabotage and incalculable shite nights out via the band’s singular brand of skull-pummeling punk rock, album number two sees Idles delve deeper still. Framed by the profound personal tragedy of Talbot’s daughter passing away as the band began working on the album, Joy As An Act Of Resistance is, from the moment the mechanical drub of opener ‘Colossal’ sets in, a spectacle of defiance sung through gritted teeth.

While ‘Television’ is a two-minute overture to self-love, and lead single ‘Danny Nedelko’ proves a sneering serenade to the beautiful immigrants that make our small towns and hectic capitals worth living in, ‘Samaritans’ is a textbook instance of Idles’ world-beating clout revealing itself. “This is why you never see your father cry,” Talbot incants, mid-way through. As with other times the 33-year-old wields uncomfortable truths for the greater good, the deafening ambivalence of “this is why” will no doubt untangle knots in many of his listeners’ minds.

From the post-Pimm’s depression of ‘Colossal’ to the sepulchral ‘June’, with its sobering refrain of "Baby shoes, for sale, never worn”, Joy as an Act of Resistance will, if you allow it, register an explicit memo that, in spite of the forces that conspire to level us, persistence is never futile. When he’s not espousing self-worth or flexing his satirical muscle (‘Never Fight a Man With a Perm’) Talbot doesn’t neglect to stare down the leering chasm of Brexit, Whataboutism or the rot of deglobalization gnawing through the floorboards of our communities. Nowhere is that more inspired than on ‘Great’, a peak that takes aim and snuffs on sight:

“Blighty wants her blue passport

Not quite sure what the union’s for

Burning bridges and closing doors

Not sure what she sees on the seashore.”

Bolstered by a rout of incendiary drives from bassist Adam Devonshire, guitarists Mark Bowen and Lee Kiernan, and drummer Joe Beavis, the overarching missive here is to brace grief, connect, push forward and, above all else, learn to love oneself. And yet, it’s in those bursts, when Talbot picks apart the cul-de-sac cunts whose idea of self-actualization means owning a 50” TV, that often lands the biggest punch.

Striving to see the good in things when one-time reference points to surety and stability are taken away takes not just a considerable amount of mettle: it demands an immense faith in one’s fellow world citizen, whether they reside next door, down the road or beyond Blighty’s beloved seashore. Guided by his friends and fellow punk conquistadors in Idles, as a lyricist, Talbot has just elevated himself to the ranks of craftsman by ensuring that the sheer currency of vulnerability, and the unkillable spirit of community, is threaded throughout JAAAOR. With it, as distilled via his closing call to sense on the album’s closing peak ‘Rottweiler’, Idles take their rightful place as not Britain’s, nor Europe’s, but the world’s most vital band:

“Keep going.

Keep fucking going.

Keep going.

Fuck ‘em.

Fuck ‘em.


Smash it.

Ruin it.

Destroy the world.

Burn your house down.


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