The UK punk scene at the moment is thriving, bands like Art Brut, Slaves and Do Nothing, all bringing the noise with incredible new music over the past few years. This resurgence has also reached Ireland, with Fontaines D.C. and The Murder Capital releasing two of 2019’s best records. My interest in this scene started with Slaves’ incredible debut album ‘Are You Satisfied?’, a furiously witty album with clever lyrics and brutal instrumentals, I thought it couldn’t get any better than that. Until 2018 when I decided to check out ‘Joy as an Act of Resistance’, the outrageously brilliant second album from UK punk outfit Idles.
From my very first listen I was completely blown away. The opening song, ‘Colossus’ is a crushingly heavy start to the album, centering on lead singer Joe Talbots’ relationship with his father, and the weight that it puts on him. It is a two-parter with the first being a brooding and melancholy slow burn that just gets increasingly manic and aggressive as it builds to a crescendo. We then take a break for a few seconds, letting you catch your breath, before they explode into the ferocious second half, a punk rock maelstrom, Joe Talbot screaming “I put homophobes in coffins!”.
The main thing that really stands out to me with this record is the lyricism, it’s funny, whilst also offering insightful and honest political and social commentary on issues such as hyper-masculinity, an issue that is the focus on their song ‘Samaritans’, and bigotry in the UK, both ‘Great’ and the ridiculously catch ‘Danny Nedelko’ highlight this issue brilliantly. They both come at the issue from different perspectives, ‘Danny Nedelko’ being about the incredible immigrants that live in the UK, and ‘Great’ being about bigots and the rise of UK nationalism.
‘June’ is a song that is clearly personal and tragic, the line “baby’s shoes, for sale, never worn” is heartbreaking. Joe writes both about personal experiences and issues that mean a lot to him, and I think that authenticity really shines through in their music.
‘I’m Scum’ is a personal favourite of mine, taking phrases that have been said about them, the band crafted a self-deprecating masterpiece. With a melody that will be firmly planted in your head for the foreseeable future. The album closes with the ferocious ‘Rottweiler’, a closing track that leaves your ears ringing.
I found this album just before starting uni, and listened to it pretty much non-stop throughout the first year of my studies, at a time when my mental health was not in the finest of places. I think it helped to hear Joe singing so openly about mental health. Their third album is due for release in September, to say I’m excited is an absolute understatement.
Words: Alex Thomson