"Much of TANGK lacks the outspoken, no-holds-barred spark of their earlier outings": on album five, Idles argue that love is all we need. You may crave something more

As they continue to evolve, IDLES resist the temptation to revisit former glories on TANGK

(Image: © Tom Ham)

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On IDLES’ new album, “Love is the fing”.

That’s the message that reigns throughout TANGK, the Bristol band’s fifth album, lulling you into a trance as it’s repeated hypnotically at the end of POP POP POP. It's a message in keeping with their transition from punchy, political noise-rock to more experimental and introspective post-punk. Overtly political cuts such as Mother, Danny Nedelko and Great make way here for more intimate, personal numbers such as the emotional A Gospel and Grace, where, once more, Joe Talbot's central mantra is “Love is the fing”. Where IDLES' early records delivered gut-punch attacks on society’s ills, TANGK dials down the rage and finger-pointing in favour of a gentler, more introspective tone, as first explored on 2021's Crawler.

IDEA 01 is a tension-building opener akin to Colossus, this time with more intricate musical flourishes in the form of delicate, whirlwind piano and sweet vocalising from Joe Talbot, his singing is almost unrecognisable from the bark and bite he exhibited on the singles which first thrust the band into the spotlight. A Gospel is equally touching, opening up with jarring vulnerability in the lyric “Lay me down on the floor / I’ll take the news better”. In stark contrast, Hall & Oates sees a return to the simple but effective anthems of the past that will slot into their live sets more seamlessly than the rest of TANGK. As we move through the album, however, such standout moments become less frequent, and the songs sequenced to close the record fail to make much of an impact.

Old school fans will doubtless miss the energy, snap and directed anger of mosh-pit favourites such as Samaritans and Never Fight a Man with a Perm, as lead-off single Dancer and Hall & Oates apart, much of TANGK lacks the outspoken, no-holds-barred spark of their early work, which offered a warm embrace to those feeling increasingly alienated by the hardening attitudes in pre and post-Brexit Britain. TANGK feels more exclusive, a love letter to the most devoted section of their tight-knit fan community. This, perhaps, shouldn't come as a huge surprise: IDLES have never bowed to expectations or sought to appeal to the masses, attaching greaterr value to growth and evolution, as illustrated when scratching fan-favourite Model Village from live setlists, believing its rather judgemental tone no longer represented them as a band.

Ultimately, diehard fans, in particular those who most enjoyed Crawler, will find a lot to love on TANGK. IDLES are continuing to carve out their own path forward, and while they can't be unaware that not everyone will come along on this leg of the journey, their commitment to making authentic, heart-felt art is admirable. Like it or not, TANGK is IDLES doing their own thing, just as they always have.

Freelance writer, Louder

In addition to contributing to Louder, Vicky writes for The Line of Best Fit, Gigwise, New Noise Magazine and more.