Following their 2017 debut album Brutalism, Idles found themselves in a tricky, if familiar, position: as interest in the band mounted, they struggled with the pressures of coming up with an anticipated second album. Then tragedy engulfed vocalist Joe Talbot when he lost his baby daughter. His concerns about the band were thrown into sharp perspective.
That second album is an honest, potent response to trauma – but one which, perhaps surprisingly, unearths hope in the depths of its grief. Lead-off single Danny Nedelko is a celebration of the support that can be found within communities, which owes a debt to Sham 69 with its raucous football chant chorus. Never Fight A Man With A Perm, Gram Rock and Samaritans each challenge suffocating stereotypes of modern masculinity, set to a soundtrack of taught, infectious post-punk.
Then there’s June. While Talbot’s daughter permeates the record, this is where her loss is addressed directly. ‘Dreams can be so cruel sometimes/I dreamt I kissed your crying eyes’ comes the song’s opening couplet, before its sombre refrain ‘Baby shoes, for sale, never worn’.
This album is a heart-breaking but jubilant exploration of joy, honesty, fragility and expression as our most powerful means of human resistance.