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IDLES explores a more modern punk style in their album ‘Tangk’

The+British+band+IDLES+released+their+fifth+album+TANGK+on+Feb.16%2C+in+which+they+experiment+with+a+modern+sound+instead+of+sticking+to+their+punk+style.
Courtesy of Partisan Records
The British band IDLES released their fifth album “TANGK” on Feb.16, in which they experiment with a modern sound instead of sticking to their punk style.
3.5 out of 5.0 stars

In their fifth album, British punk band IDLES utilizes a more modern production style, varied influences and creative instrumentation to create a sound that is familiar and unexpected at the same time. However, this new sound does not always work in the band’s favor. 

“TANGK” opens with “IDEA 01,” an unconventionally structured song based around a repeating kick drum pattern with scattering piano notes and subdued vocals. The song is essentially one large build up, but it fizzles out before it really explodes, leaving the listener a bit unsettled. The opener is quickly overshadowed by the following song “Gift Horse.” It’s a classic IDLES song with a bit more funk influence, particularly in Jon Beavis’ drum part. Joe Talbot’s spoken  — or yelled — words in the verses match nicely with the rest of the band and create a really groovy loop. The chants of “look at him go!” in the chorus are an instant earworm and make for a great hook. 

“POP POP POP” is an interesting song in the track list. It combines funk inspired drums with droning electronic synths, bass and guitars. Talbot again utilizes spoken word and locks into rhythm with the band. Ultimately, the song fails to deliver a satisfying chorus or ending and rather repeats for a while, overstaying its welcome. “Roy” features plucky single guitar and bass notes over a simple drum beat in the verses. The pre-chorus brings in twangy, western-inspired guitar chords that, along with Talbot’s vocals, really build the song up before the chorus. But just when it’s all pumped up, the chorus comes in with loud tremolo chords and disjointed drum fills that stop the momentum right in its tracks. Even with the excellent vocal performance, the strange arrangement and production choices stop the listener from fully getting into the song. Despite the drums getting more active in the final chorus, it feels like too little, too late. 

“A Gospel” begins with high-pitched eighth note piano chords, which are accompanied by tender vocals. As the song progresses, there are string parts that join and flesh out the sound. The sweet lyrics and strings are lovely, but the repetitive and bland piano unfortunately stops it from being great. The lead single of the album, “Dancer,” featuring electric dance-punk legends LCD Soundsystem, starts the second half of the album with a bang. A flurry of strings starts the song and then the drums and bass jump in right away. James Bond-like guitar parts add to the verses before it explodes into the chorus. Shouts of “collide us as we work it out” behind Talbot’s lead vocals all mix together perfectly with the band. This song conveys dancing as a radical act of freedom and expression, both in the music and lyrics.

The next song, “Grace,” feels like a stronger version of “POP POP POP.” It features the same funk style drums and droning guitars but is helped by Talbot’s soft vocals. The subtle build up for the chorus works especially with the great lyrics, “No god / No king / I said love is the thing” emphasizing IDLES’s philosophy of uncompromising love. “Hall & Oates” sounds like it could be straight off “Brutalism,” the group’s first record. It’s a straightforward punk song that features dry guitar riffs, chants of “I love my man!” and a messier production style. It feels a bit out of place on the record, but it’s still a fun track.

“Jungle” opens with a catchy, palm-muted guitar riff that is accompanied by syncopated drums and lyrics of cruel violence. The pre-chorus brings big drum and piano hits with passionate vocals sung over them. The chorus dials this up to eleven with Talbot yelling, “Save me from me!” as the band swells behind him. The arrangement is simple and powerful, with the most natural use of piano in the record thus far.

The second-to-last track, “Gratitude,” opens with punchy bass, trashy drums and eerie guitar and vocals. It lulls you into a trance until the chorus bursts in at a hundred miles per hour. It can not be understated how tight this chorus is. The compressed instrumentation feels like it is being injected straight into the bloodstream. The track makes the chant of “that gratitude cuts through my veins!” feel powerful and it’s unlike any other song about gratitude you will hear. 

The closer of the album, “Monolith,” brings the energy way down for a quiet and somber final note from the band. It ends up being more successful than the opener, utilizing intimate vocals soaked in reverb, lingering guitar notes, rumbling synth bass, a repetitive click and something that sounds like distorted steel drums. These elements all combine to make a reflective and melancholic track. The song ends with two saxophone licks as the rest of the instrumentation fades out, creating a quiet end to a generally loud album. 

Overall, TANGK is a step in the right direction for IDLES. Instead of playing it safe and sticking with the punk sound that made them famous, they’re experimenting with different genres and production styles. These experiments do not always work out on this album, making it a bit disconnected, but when they do, it’s exciting to hear. It would be great to hear them expand on the ideas they created in this album in their hopefully better polished next release. 

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