The explosive crack of the snare, check. The ferocious drive of the bass, check. The controlled screech of the guitars, check. The snarl of the vocals, check. Yep, this is an Idles record. The band’s first two albums, ‘Brutalism’ and ‘Joy as an Act of Resistance’ have brought lots of success and the winning formula has had very little tinkering for ‘Ultra Mono’.

It is safe to say anyone who has enjoyed Idles work before, will enjoy this too. If you disliked Idles before, there’s nothing here to change your mind. That’s not to say there isn’t progress on show, the finessing, rather than complete overhaul of the production is evident. The edges are a bit sharper and right from the outset of the frantic opener ‘War’ it’s clear this is a band who have some more opinions they are here to impart.

Extensive use of metaphor does allow room for interpretation of some of the finer details, though the subjects of consent, mental health and self-belief are all clearly present. One target firmly in the crosshairs is the UK’s current Conservative government, a target that has seemingly been Idles-enemy number one throughout their recording career. Much of the lyrical content could be seen as a rallying call for the overhaul of the current regime.

Idles - Ultra Mono

Ultra Mono Cover

There are guest appearances on the album from Jamie Cullum on ‘Kill Them With Kindness’ and Jehnny Beth on ‘Ne Touche Pas Moi’, but honestly I don’t think I’d have noticed if it wasn’t pointed out, albeit that is clearly Jehnny Beth doing backing vocals now I know to listen for them. With such an established and distinctive style, it’s hard to think of any guests that would be able to stamp their own presence without disturbing the core fabric.

‘A Hymn’ is a bit of an outlier for the album, moderately less in your face, with lyrics straying away from full-on resentment towards reflective. It’s a welcome break from the urge to stomp and smash things for the few minutes it lasts, though coming as track 11 of 12 it’s likely you’re already dealing with the wreckage caused by the earlier moral outrage.

I’m a fan of the album, as I have been the previous two efforts. I think should anyone feel the need to create a “best of Idles” list, it would certainly include songs from ‘Ultra Mono’, as it would songs from the whole back catalogue. This is a strong continuation of what came before, it may be just as relevant to say Idles have released songs 26-37 as it is to say they’ve released their third album.

Idles – Ultra Mono is released on September 25th via Partisan Records

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Adam Smith

Silent Radio Editor-in-chief. Watching excellently crafted live music is one of the great pleasures I get to enjoy. Having too often seen excellent bands fail to garner the attention I believe they deserve, I'm here to spread the good word of the under-appreciated musical performer. I encourage everyone who is reading this to do the same. Get in touch if you'd like to do that here.