I’ll be the first to admit that over the last 2 years my interest in IDLES has dwindled. Joy as an Act of Resistance was as close to perfect you can get in the genre that IDLES operate in but in the following years, and with the help of an underwhelming third album that produced nothing surprising, it became hard to imagine the band ever really producing something exciting again. Now, just over a year since Ultra Mono, their fourth album Crawler is here. Though the lead single, Beachland Ballroom was quite forgettable it was clearly the first left turn the band had ever taken. But did they continue down the road for the whole LP?
Starting off the album the first four songs; MTT 420 RR, The Wheel, When the Lights Come On and Car Crash all built my excitement. At times these four songs sound less like a punk album and more like a British Rage Against the Machine-esque rap effort. There seemed to be a theme running through the songs about a car crash and the trauma from that. A concept album from IDLES was a prospect that really got me going and they still managed to keep their pent-up anger in songs like The Wheel and Car Crash, something that was missing from Beachland Ballroom. The other two of the first four were more slow burners but in a much more polished way than the lead single. It really depends what side of IDLES you are into as to which of the four songs are your favourite but as far as the whole album it’s pretty clear that these are the peak of the project.
Unfortunately, any hope I had of a genuine attempt at a coherent whole album slowly fell away as the album played on. The New Sensation and Stockholm Syndrome are just sonic white flags. Instead of exploring the interesting directions they were going in a decision seems to have been made to step back into the comfortable ULTRA MONO mediocrity, with ultra-blunt lyrics and unimaginative instrumentals to boot. Beachland Ballroom follows, a song I was hoping would make more sense in the context of a whole album, and perhaps it would if the line of the first four songs were followed, but alas coming after the aforementioned two tracks it seems… out of place.
Up next, now into the second half of the album, is a return to the form at the start of the album. Crawler! offers another energetic rager that gets stuck in your head in a way only IDLES really know how to do. It’s at the point that its worth saying that the production throughout the album is absolutely sublime, obviously. The bass and drum sound never put a foot wrong, something that, even at their worst, the band have stayed consistent on since their debut. The next two tracks, Meds and Kelechi fall back into the forgettable category unfortunately, both for different reasons. Meds is the blunt unimaginative IDLES track that they’ve produced so often the last couple of years, without having even a memorable instrumental to help it through. Kelechi passes the listener by because of its 0:30 second run time and lack of… any sonic appeal. It then melts into Progress a song that starts off acoustically and turns into something closer to The Weeknd’s discography than IDLES. Although it might not be a song I would immediately skip to again it shows that there was a refreshing attempt at something new by the band here.
The next track, though again 0:30 seconds, is extremely different to Kelechi. The Wizz is a 100mph blink and you’ll miss it track. Though it’s really nothing new from the band it serves as a slap around the face for anyone who had been disheartened from the previous couple of tracks. This then goes straight into King Snake; another middle of the road IDLES song. It really is a shame that at times on this album they seem to just be trying to cover their own songs from previous albums. Closing out the album is The End, which is in between this self-covering and the exciting sounds at the peak of the album. Ultimately this means that the album ends on a somewhat underwhelming note, though a step up from the last five tracks.
As much as I was expecting to be disappointed by this album, I feel coming out the other end of it I am even more so than I thought I would be. Before I listened to it I thought I had the band nailed as only being able to make an ULTRA MONO part 2. Instead, what this album managed to show was a band that, for the first time in their discography, have something new to show. Unfortunately, the execution just isn’t consistent throughout the album. There were times when my ears would prick up, like a dog hearing the word “walkies”, at the sound of promising change but just as soon as this would happen mediocrity would resume. This being said my interest in IDLES has grown for the first time in a long time. Now they have shown they are capable of something more they have my interest and hope in whatever comes next.
Crawler will be released via Partisan Records on Friday November 14