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IDLES, ‘TANGK’ review: love songs that hit you like a punch in the face

IDLES have delivered their first set of pure love songs. But fear not, they still pack the punch that you'd expect.

4.0 rating

By Nick Reilly

(Picture: Lillie Eiger)

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone UK, IDLES leader Joe Talbot enthused how he’s “fixated on love. All the other stuff is bullshit to me right now.”

On their fifth album, TANGK, it’s clear what Talbot means. The abrasive and unapologetic spirit of IDLES burns brighter than ever, but it’s tempered with a sense of emotion unlike anything that the Bristol group have ever done before. This is an album exclusively of love songs — presented in ways that see IDLES reaching some of the greatest heights of their career.

On early highlight ‘Gift Horse’, for instance, Talbot offers a powerful ode to his daughter over spiky guitars. “My baby is beautiful / All is love and love is all,” he offers. But fear not, the second line shows IDLES haven’t gone totally soft just yet. “Fuck the king / He ain’t the king / She’s the king,” he cries.

There’s doom-laden distortion on the confessional ‘Roy’, while ‘A Gospel’ might just be the closest that IDLES has ever come to recalling the piano-fuelled melancholy of Nick Cave.

This experimentation can be attributed to Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, who was drafted in to make an album that was “advantageous and experimental”. He has achieved that in spades here. The above moments point to a new, exciting future for IDLES, while also retaining enough — see the disco-primed beat of ‘Dancer’ — to please fans of old, too.

But as a collection of love songs, it works incredibly well, allowing the group to mine their souls without losing excitement and variety in the process. Five albums into their career, IDLES remain one of Britain’s most exciting and vital bands. To quote Talbot himself: all is love.