The Student
The Student
IDLES miss the mark with Ultra Mono
by Ella Cockerill, 13/10/20

⭐⭐⭐

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The latest album by Bristolian rock band IDLES Ultra Mono, delivers hard hitting truths at a freight train-like unwavering velocity, scratching the anarchy itch that has plagued the British nation all year. 

It is no wonder that with Ultra Mono, the boys have scored their first UK number one and bagged the title of fastest selling vinyl release of 2020 while they were at it. As we all emerge blurry eyed from our nine-month slumber, what better way to blow the cobwebs away than with a fresh dose of this legendary band. Not so much coffee, but rocket fuel for the soul.

Coming out the other side of a summer of political and social turmoil, we expected a flare up of punk anarchy as artists were finally released, chomping at the bit, to make their lockdown musings a reality. IDLES jumped into the record studio with none other than post-punk legend Nick Launay who made his name working with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Arcade Fire. We would expect a pairing like this to be akin to dropping a match into a can of petrol, however, the record is surprisingly, unsurprising. Complete with the pummelling guitar riffs and strained vocals that come as standard with any punk-rock creation, Ultra Mono feels at times unremarkable. This may not be the triumphant return we envisioned, but to be fair, petrol bomb levels of brilliance is a tall order to fill and truthfully there is something satisfying in its predictability. 

This record is marching and abrasive. The lyrics are an unapologetic commentary on a host of societal problems from racism and sexism, to shady politicians and war. The kind of raw subject matter that punk is built for. When pinpointing what drives the album, vocalist Joe Talbot said,‘It is an engine of all that we can’t control: our race, our age, our class and our past in the form of what we control absolutely – our music, our now.’ (Joe Talbot via facebook)

The stamping pulse and monotonous vocals stoke this concept of the “here and now”. The album feels more like a continuous ebb and flow of sound rather than distinct tracks. From the very beginning we find ourselves hanging onto every stab of the beat, and every bark and shriek from Joe. We lose track of time only to be churned out, forty-two minutes later, dazed and confused but with fire in our bellies.

Image: Mark Bowen via flickr