idles ultra mono album review

IDLES – Ultra Mono

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If somehow you haven’t heard already, you need to know that Bristol’s love-fueled anarchists IDLES are a brute force to be reckoned with.

Their debut album Brutalism provides a dark but necessary outlook into right-wing Britain. Joy As An Act of Resistance taught us all a different message – to find strength, power, and, most importantly, unity through loving ourselves and one another. Now with Ultra Mono, have IDLES crumbled or prospered under the seismic pressure of expectation to continue their widespread success?

According to Talbot, he coined the term Ultra Mono as a means of identifying with the best, or peak, version of yourself that you can be. In a recent newsletter sent out to fans, he also stated that “Ultra Mono is the acceptance of now and I and you. We are not the same but behold something together that is true: the moment… Ultra Mono is joy’s engine and it goes.”

Judging by the album opener “War,” Talbot is talking about one blistering engine. Chaotic soundscapes pair with similarly sharp-edged lyrics as the track explores themes of self-conflict while also providing the beginnings of a journey towards loving yourself. This is followed by the politically pertinent track “Grounds” which we reviewed earlier this year before some of Joy’s purest essences are revisited in the intensely optimistic “Mr. Motivator.”

The album’s main body continues in a prophetically joyful fashion. In “Kill Them With Kindness,” Talbot exclaims, “I guess you cannot tell from my tone, I mean ba-ba-business and I ain’t on my own / I’m guessing it is hard for you to see, that-that-that-that empathy will cut down your throne.” Out of all four pre-released singles prior to the drop of Ultra Mono, “Model Village” was the pinnacle, and its accompanying cartoon animated video perfectly sums up an anecdotal life in a modern British village.

Elsewhere, “Ne Touche Pas Moi” features the band’s first studio collaboration with another artist (Jehnny Beth) while “Carcinogenic” and “Reigns” explore Britain’s current Conservative political landscape and its consequential effects for the working classes – a theme which Talbot has poignantly explored in the past with tracks such as “Divide and Conquer.”

Towards the album’s end, the album’s message is laid out in all its essence. “A Hymn” depicts a small corner of our mind clustered with self-doubt, which we all as human beings bear too much of today, before concluding with “Danke” which pays an ode to the late Daniel Johnston with the lyric, “True love will find you in the end / You will find out just who was your friend,” and proudly proclaims that joy remains to be a powerful act of resistance in this often volatile world we live in.

Lyrically and sonically, IDLES have once again fired on all cylinders and produced an ear-pricking album that encourages us all to defeat the patriarchy of negativity and gloom by relishing and accepting our truest selves in the here and now. This ethos was also implemented throughout the album’s recording process where the majority of the lyrics conceived by Talbot were created on the spot, in the moment, in the studio booth – and if that’s not accepting the here and now then what is?

So, have IDLES crumbled or prospered with Ultra Mono? I know my answer.