Idles at The Portland Arms – live review

live reviews "the future sound of politically-charged art"

There are few bands on the circuit today who can successfully strike trepidation and elation simultaneously into the heart of an onlooker. With Idles, you get both sensations at extortionate levels.

For a band that describes themselves as “a nosebleed on the ears”, this promise of belligerence and vitriolic pandemonium is delivered by the Bristolian brigade with such brute force and under the guise of a terrifying stage presence. It almost makes bands like Iceage or Bad Breeding* seem forbearing.

Guitarist Mark Bowen shuffles relentlessly and menacingly to the screech of his own instrument throughout; opening with ‘Faith’, his cataleptic dance triggers the audience’s initial fears and secret curiosity. The quartet each move in heavy jolts, each furiously trying to be as loud as the others. The audible fight is extraordinary.

Joe Talbot’s thousand-yard gaze from across the microphone isn’t merely a technique of intimidation, it’s a surveillance mechanism. He scours the audience with such venom, such vigilance… his malicious charisma shining in all its rancid glory on tracks like ‘Divide and Conquer’ (of which is declared as a song to comment on the current state of the National Health Service… a band with such political motives can only be seen with the vexed, rebellious attitude of the punk movement. A term which is so hideously overused, but appropriate here).

The audience reacts most strongly to ‘Well Done’, their most recent single. Now a set staple-track for the band, filled to the brim with hatred towards the bourgeois, they rattle through it with such muscle, and their audience gives it a rapturous applause.

Post-brexit and post-US election, this is the future sound of politically-charged art for the 21st century; and you’re not sure if you’re welcome to enjoy their angst. Idles are genuinely wrathful, and are ready to carpet-bomb the establishment with their developed, Herculean noise.

*OK, perhaps not Bad Breeding. They’re fucking SAVAGE.

IDLES will be back at The Portland Arms on March 6th

Words from Jack Stevens

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