ALBUM REVIEW: Idles – Ultra Mono – Partisan Records

Idles have come on in leaps and bounds since their last album Joy As An Act of Resistance (Partisan Records). It’s not even been 5 years since they were playing 100 capacity venues, yet here they are today having sold out giant venues like Alexandra Palace in under a day. With two giant albums under their belt, the big question was how the Bristol band were going to not only top it, but maintain the astronomical growth they’ve been on for the past 3 years.

Idles are no band to start without a bang as their iconic droning style guitars burst into life for the Onomatopoeic track ‘War’. Building up the speed and dramatics, chimes in vocalist Joe Talbot’s bombastic chants channelling what each section of war sounds like until descending into a furious war cry of “This means war, Anti-war!” Yes, it’s simplistic, but part of the charm of Ultra Mono (Partisan Records) is how truly to the point & straight forward the lyrics are. There is no reading around the initial motivations behind their music.

Ultra Mono from then on, follows a very similar formula for the rest of the album. Pick a specific issue, for example, racism in smaller towns in ‘Model Village’ or Sexism in ‘Ne Touch Pas Moi’. Add in the out of tune chanting in time with the drumbeat. Finally, add on top of the mixture a discordant guitar drone chiming in at odd intervals, and you now have an Idles song. Ultimately once you’ve reached half-way through the album, you have unfortunately heard most of it.

The main stand-out track comes right before the end in the penultimate track: ‘A Hymn’. Similar to the likes of the harrowing song ‘June’ from Joy As An Act of Resistance (Partisan Records), the band lowers their guard and drops all boisterous notions as Talbot croons gently “I wanna be loved.” While not as dark a subject matter as the prior song, the vulnerability expressed shows a completely other side to the band that needs to be shown more often.

When you compare the album to their previous works, it fundamentally does not stand up. Unlike their previous album that was bursting with energy and uniqueness. Ultra Mono, for the most part, seems contrived and formulaic. There is still that glimmer of a spark underneath it all, however. It is when the band performs something more personal, (‘A Hymn’) it shines a testament to the prowess and raw talent that can be found in their catalog. Definitively, Ultra Mono is a sound of what Idles think their audience wants to hear, rather than what they are in 2020.

You can buy Ultra Mono here:

6 / 10