The music industry’s hype cycle is such a transient phenomenon, who can tell whether anyone is trying to genuinely appraise the past, or just convince you that whatever you didn’t like about their last record is all fixed now? Idles last album UItra Mono had an odd Frankenstein air to it, a collection of good ideas on which more filter needed to be applied; not bad, it was hard to escape the thought that the Bristolians were trying to please all of their rapidly extended audience to the detriment of both meaning and focus.
Afterwards in the isolated grip of the pandemic, singer Joe Talbot recognised that. Along with the quintet’s absence from playing live there was an opportunity to think, to settle and contemplate more than just the physical and mental treadmill they’d set themselves on in order to get their messages across. Like them or otherwise, Idles had spent the three years since the arrival in 2017 of their debut Brutalism in the world’s face, with predictably mixed outcomes.
Crawler is the result of this introspection. Where it’s become standard for artists to declare minor tweaks in their work as great leaps forward, on it Idles have scrapped much of what helped them connect with the people who made them an overground success story. It’s often bleak and in Talbot’s case lyrically biographical. It’s showpiece is The Beachland Ballroom, a gritty homage to the soul music he grew up listening to. Obsessive fanbase or not, there’s also risk – history may judge this as the band’s equivalent of Kid A, or a self-indulgent experiment. At least for once when somebody’s telling you Kansas has gone bye-bye, you’re looking to pick out a new pair of shoes.
You can read a full review here.