Review: Idles :: TANGK

The Bristol band’s outsider punk celebrates their own quirkiness while discovering a new pop sensibility.

The first single “Dancer” raised eyebrows among many Idles fans with its broken disco twang, hook fine-tuning and LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy and Nancy Whang in the backing choir. Then “Grace” came across even more unusual: the verse by singer Joe Talbot in an almost whispering tone was conciliatory and fragile, especially in comparison to the more urgently phrased refrain: “No god, no king / I said, love is the thing”.


Both song poles are representative of TANGK – which follow one another directly towards the middle of the album – although the basic desire to experiment goes far beyond that. Always unique in their self-image, the Idles make their biggest leap out of the box here: Postpunk? They never wanted to be anyway. Indie rock? Not by conventional standards. Arty? Then please do it in a naughty way. TANGK is all of that, but the sum of its parts is so much greater because they cannot be squeezed even further into any particular pattern of expectations.

Her most mature performance to date

After the Bristol band released their first records almost every year, their fifth album seems like their most mature achievement to date, and not just because of the longer period of reflection. Which may also be due to the fact that the team of Kenny Beats and Idles guitarist Mark Bowen, tried and tested by its predecessor CRAWLER, has been profitably expanded here with the addition of Nigel “Radiohead” Goldrich to form a production troika. On the one hand, the Idles increase their indie-intellectual status, but on the other hand, they don’t lose sight of the buzzing strobe guitars, the discreet pub rabble-like atmosphere or even potential punk dance floor fires.

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While the opener “IDEA 01” with its lounge vocals performed over a stoic drum beat and piano rain gives the impression that you are in a late Arctic Monkeys outtake, hip-hop fan Talbot goes for it on the street-smart hissing “Gift Horse”. Horses through again in a more usual manner. “POP POP POP” then presents a laconic lust for life, knows how to delight with a successful German creation (“Joy of Joy / Joy On Joy / Cheerleader / Happy Boy”) and has a borderline ironic effect like Underworld in slow motion.

The ultimate proof of love for the fans and your own integrity

On the other hand, “Roy” (which Orbison can do, but you don’t have to think about it) flirts with a slanted sixties guitar, which gleefully deconstructs any trace of schmaltz and schwoof, and the piano-reduced “A Gospel” celebrates the newly discovered in a wonderful way Fragility. “Hall & Oates” is a strong candidate for lyric of the year with lines like “It feels like Hall & Oates is playing in my heart / I loved my man from the very start” and also has a crooner element to assert themselves musically with contrasting Muppet Monster Gang choirs.

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With “Jungle”, the Idles unpack a veritable four-minute mini-epic of almost cinematic quality shortly before the home straight, only to then settle down vocally again on “Monolith”, but accompanied by a disturbing Badalamenti hum, with the finale -sounds of a lonely saxophone. The fact that nothing here screams of mainstream sell-out, but rather that supposed pop concessions only further underline the likeable quirkiness of the brilliantly exceptional and outsider group, is perhaps TANGK’s greatest gift – and thus the ultimate proof of love for the fans and their own integrity.

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You can find out which albums were released in February 2024 with our monthly release list.