Thursday, September 27th, 2018

Idles – Great

Are hamsters halal? Let us know in the comments.


Ashley John: “Great” reads exactly like the 15 spiraling texts I send to my best friend late at night every time the news cycle churns out something new to be mad about, even including the hollow shrug at hope to close it out. 

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Fires out the gate like something a la The Jesus Lizard but quickly opts for something more contained, building up tension until the very last second. The thick bass line and cyclical drums build a vortex that’s fit for soundtracking a mosh pit, but it also resembles the headache-inducing frenzy that is life post-Brexit. There’s much delight in the arrangement and mixing, but the sardonic lyrics are just as amusing. Of note is the rhyming of “hamster” with “hand sir” and the interpolation of David Cameron’s “We’re all in this together” remark. The latter concludes the song with a grievous reminder that while not everyone is ignorant, all of us are suffering for it.

Alfred Soto: The bass growl is the star, the climax as rousing as it needs to be, the spelling not a hot trick.

Ian Mathers: I’ve been known to be a little cynical about punk rock in recent years despite (because?) growing up on it and loving lots of it. Or maybe that’s not quite it; maybe it’s that lots of it seems to be pretty negative about the world and while I both get and respond to that, plenty of the genre seems mired in it in a way that just feels tiring to me. But Idles make me feel like that problem is more minor than I thought, because all it takes is a song or two (the even more posi “Danny Nedelko” in Idles’ case) from a band that provides both the energetic rumble I want and the big, hopeful open heart I apparently need to make me feel like maybe this is the only thing I want to listen to for the rest of the week. Mind you, as the lyrics of “Great” make clear, that heart isn’t to be confused with some sort of milquetoast, self-defeating tolerance of intolerance, but even when being cutting here something just feels different with Idles and it feels damn good. Listen to more jungle!

Cédric Le Merrer: I guess I can get behind using the power of The Fall’s Caterpillar track basslines to deliver  I can’t believe it’s not brocialism sentiments — seriously I’ve been assured Idles are sensitive feminist guys so let’s all believe this for now. As far as this very obvious project goes, it is executed well enough.

Tim de Reuse: A thrilling bassline ties together lines that occasionally cutting deep (A highlight that I will surely be appropriating: “The wombic charm of the union jack”). But chanting “G R E A T” letter-by-letter doesn’t work as a lyrical device, and the celebratory IV – I chord progression of the chorus undermines the dry British disdain that the verses build so effectively.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: The beat that Talbot and Co. conjure up, an energetic, burbling thing driven by a faux-jungle bassline, is good enough to cover for the verses’ pop-polisci. What doesn’t need to be covered for is the eminently sincere anthemic stab of the chorus and the outro, which are as pure of a expression of musical hope as anything I’ve heard this year.

Maxwell Cavaseno: You know The Fall aren’t that Great and neither is this song to be fair, but I suppose points have to be awarded for emulating less thoroughly emulated boring bands when trying to make Big Statements about society. Unfortunately, you can take points away for being 1) Monotonous grinding masquerading as groove 2) tiresome snide sarcasm and 3) boastful self-celebratory booming choruses to show off one’s being smarter than the chodes. If you were the kind of person who ever thought at some point in your life “Golly, I wish I could have Fucked Up back Stephen Colbert” but make sure it addressed UK Politics, then I have something for you.

Taylor Alatorre: I’m sure most media consumers in Britain are as tired of reading about the causes of Brexit as Americans are of reading about the rise of Trump, so you’d think there wouldn’t be much demand for the aural equivalent of a Jonathan Freedland column. There is a way to tackle broad political topics without being overbroad in scope, and it’s not through sketching phantom avatars of working-class ignorance that can be knocked out in one rhetorical punch. The cleanest jab lands at the end, with a nod toward Britain’s possible future as a low-wage Thatcherite reverie. That prospect alone is worthy of an entire concept album, not just a snappy couplet.

Edward Okulicz: If this had a chorus that wasn’t spelling, it might be an 7. And if it had come out just after Leave won, it might be an 8. I love how the song starts like it’s been incompletely taped or dubbed from another source onto a tape and there are some good lines, slogans ruing the victory of other slogans, but I can’t get past how these give way to something as banal as spelling out the word “great.” Strictly as an observer from a colony, the UK seems like a deeply flawed institution, but they have some good pop songs, a history of protest and the bacon bap. So there’s hope.

Vikram Joseph: Thunderous freight-train bass and sloganeering choruses might not bring much new to the punk table, but Idles wring tension from the constant high-wire they walk between bile and wit. Their last single, “Danny Nedelko,” positioned their eponymous British-Ukrainian pal as an immigrant everyman, reclaiming the echoes of the football terraces for left-wing activism. “Great” goes further, brazenly goading Brexiteers with the opening line “Blighty wants his country back,” followed shortly afterwards with the glorious “Islam didn’t eat your hamster.” The chorus, and the through-gritted-teeth outro of “We’re all in this together,” are thick with sarcasm. Is it going to win anyone over? Of course not, but fuck it — this is, as Idles’ album title declares, an act of resistance. There’s been a fixation on the need for the left to understand exactly why gammon-faced white septagenarians want to drag us back in time; Idles, thankfully, do not care. Let them have blue passports for the remaining ten years of their lives; let us, at the very least, have our vitriol.

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3 Responses to “Idles – Great”

  1. Monotonous grinding is its own reward, in fairness.

  2. I really, really love Ashley’s blurb!

  3. Hamsters are haraam mateys

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