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The Breakdown: IDLES

The Breakdown is a series where we look at the bands and tracks that have shaped and influenced a current artist. We look at artists they’ve specifically been influenced by, as well as speculate on some other influences.

Self described as an ‘angry band’, British post-punk rockers IDLES (yes, all caps, they’re angry after all!) are known for their blistering sound, fierce lyrics and engaging stage antics.

Would you get your teeth checked by this man? (He’s a fully qualified dentist!)
Image via DIY Magazine

Songs like Danny Nedelko, Never Trust a Man with a Perm and Well Done are prominent examples of the band’s high energy and screaming guitars.

Upon first listen, IDLES screams out the regular hallmarks of a loud, brash punk band. But front man Joe Talbot is adamant that they are NOT. In an interview with Loud and Quiet, IDLES Talbot cited a number of different influences that have influenced him and IDLES, from jazz to jungle, R&B to minimal techno.

It’s all of these elements combined that have lead to IDLES unique sound, but let’s try to unpick those elements to show more directly how they’ve influenced their sound.

A 6 track Breakdown of IDLES. 

1. Evidently Chickentown by John Cooper Clarke

Talbots singing on IDLES tracks ranges from full blown screaming, throat busting bellowing down to spoken word intervals. John Cooper Clarke was a beat poet from Salford, Manchester in the 1980s, and this track highlights the pulsing techno beat over punchy, angry lyrics, perfectly IDLES.

Hear it in: I’m Scum, Colossus

2. New Dawn Fades by Joy Division

The godfathers of post-punk, Joy Division’s influence is clear cut on most post-punk bands. Where the post-punk sounds meets early dark electronica, you can almost hear the despair pouring out of your speakers. While IDLES tries to balance angry and more life affirming lyrics, the beat structure and bass tones are an easy point of comparison here.

Hear it in: Slow Savage, June, 26/27

3.What We All Want by Gang of Four

Noisy guitars, heavy baseline and motorik style beat. While many of IDLES songs are much faster than Gang of Four’s tracks, you can hear the ‘chug’ of the drums and baseline, that IDLES utilize no matter the bpm of their tracks.

Hear it in: Benzocane, White Privilege, Television

4. I Am a God by Kayne West

In the same Loud and Quiet interview, Talbot cites Yeezus as a major influence on their sound, particularly their debut album, Brutalism. While it can be hard to compare industrial hip hop to ripping post punk, there are some slight comparisons due to Kanye’s use of of a droning beat before dropping in harsh, industrial elements. IDLES employ a similar technique on some slower tracks, drawing the listener in before exploding with rip roaring guitars.

Hear it in: Exeter, Samaritans

5. Bloodbuzz Ohio by The National

Another band name dropped by Talbot, the influence on IDLES is apparent on any of their great sing-along-able (or should that be shout along able?) tracks. The National balance singable melodies with very present and pounding guitars. IDLES have taken this element and turned it up to 11 on tracks like Great and Danny Nedelko, producing melodies that make you want to scream the lyrics from the rooftops.

Hear it on: Great, Danny Nedelko, Nice Man

6.The Awakening by The Ahmad Jamal Trio

Hear me on this one. The key part about this track is the steady drumbeat, with the piano come up and down in intervals, before taking over the song. Where Kayne has a similar technique but used to push powerful noise, IDLES have taken the more melodic elements from Ahmad and use the noise forward.

Hear it on: Love Song, Cry to Me

Listen to all the tracks mentioned in this breakdown here:

With their potent energy, vicious tone and fighting lyrics, IDLES have taken these influences and turned them into something truly unique. Monster Children recently wrote that IDLES are one of the most important live bands in the world right now, and I 100% agree.

IDLES are playing Austin City Limits on October 4th. If you’re in or around Austin, you could do worse things than check them out.

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