1. Joy as an Act of Resistance - Idles (Partisan Records)
There's a famous quote that is sometimes attributed to Groucho Marx: 'The most important thing is sincerity. If you can fake that, you've got it made'.
The line predates the dawn of rock and roll, an area of entertainment that has always perversely been promoted as being authentic and real. It's a fantasy that idealistic music lovers fall for time and time again. So much so that there's always genuine gasps of shock and horror when, for instance, the man who once sang ‘Anarchy in the UK’ and bellowed that ‘anger is an energy’ goes on to sell Anchor Butter. The outcry of indignation that fans of The Smiths recently expressed because of Morrissey's ridiculous remarks are more out of disbelief that someone they put on such a lofty pedestal could turn out to have such feet of clay. Will we ever learn?
Listening to 'Joy as an Act of Resistance' and seeing Idles play live, I feel that I'm again being cast as the wounded lover who swears that they will never make the same mistakes again, but then ends up stumbling oblivious into another romantic minefield. Will I ever learn?
From the puncturing admission of 'I am my father's son/his shadow weighs a ton', of the album's slow, grinding opener 'Collosus' I feel that I have again found my band. Then there are the swipes at toxic masculinity on 'Never Fight a Man With a Perm' and 'Samaritans' and the take down of petty nationalism on 'Great' ('Blighty wants her blue passport/
Not quite sure what the Union’s for'), and the plea for unity on 'Danny Nedelko' (before performing the song live a few months ago, singer Joe Talbot screams 'I fucking love immigrants'). By this point, my wariness and scepticism is fading and I'm starting to wonder whether this band were formed to answer the prayers of ageing lefties like me.
Seeing Idles perform these songs live is a cathartic experience, like being in a revelatory therapy session, albeit with crowd surfing guitarists. Joe Talbot is one of the most engaging front men I've ever seen, mainly because he's so possesed by his beliefs, to borrow a line from the butter advertiser, he appears to 'mean it maaan!'
But have I been taken in yet again? Will they scratch '4 REAL' into their arms in front of cynical journalists before penning an album of near-apocalyptic despair? or will they end up presenting a nice weekend show on 6 Music, chatting amiably to the vacuous presenters of The One Show and allowing their music to be used to flog clothes in adverts?
For the time being I believe that Idles are sincere. They're the band that will get us through this fuck-awful period of ugly and divisive political ineptness. As one old English eccentric once noted 'There are Bad Times Just Around The Corner', those times are now here, as a defense we need to use Joy as an Act of Resistance.
Jason Lewis is a Birmingham based music, movie and arts obsessive. Jason's encyclopedic knowledge of 80s/90s Arts films is a debt to his embedded status in the Triangle Arts Centre trenches back then.