IDLES: CRAWLER (Partisan) | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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The phenomenon that continues to grow from strength to strength. It might have taken the best part of a decade for IDLES to make any kind of headway outside of their native Bristol, yet since 2017’s debut Brutalism provided an unsuspecting and unrelenting platform into the wider world, it’s probably fair to say they haven’t looked back. 2018’s Joy as an Act of Resistance solidified their status as arguably the most exciting British rock band to emerge this past decade.

Nevertheless, it hasn’t all been plain sailing. Last year’s Ultra Mono received mixed reviews despite being the band’s first number one record in the UK, while frontman Joe Talbot’s personal struggles with addiction have been well documented. Which brings us onto CRAWLER, the band’s fourth album in as many years.

If its predecessor was the quintet’s radio friendly unit shifter of sorts, CRAWLER takes a left turn and doesn’t stop for breath until the end. Literally. While the lyrical themes of trauma, heartbreak, and loss remain an omnipresent influence, the 13 pieces that make up CRAWLER represent IDLES at their most experimental musically. While the added instrumentation of church organ and saxophone at various intervals might not exactly scream “Godspeed! You Black Emperor” at the most ardent of listeners, there are elements that overlap.

Then lead single “The Beachland Ballroom” embraces ’60s flavored soul. Indeed, the album’s announcement and the single’s arrival in September came as something of a surprise, particularly as the band had barely been able to tour Ultra Mono. IDLES once again enlisted the services of Kenny Beats, who co-produced the album with the band’s own Mark Bowen. Beats doesn’t overegg the mix, instead providing the glue that knits each of the album’s various components together.

What is apparent from the outset is CRAWLER wasn’t designed to entice radio playlist schedulers, as the uneasy listen that’s “MTT 420 RR” introduces the album, its weaving maelstrom of pedal infused sonics somewhat akin to Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ incendiary classic “Maps.” Only here, Talbot asks inquisitively, “Are you ready for the storm?”

From hereon in CRAWLER could be described as just that, a storm that shows no sign of abating. As the bass driven “The Wheel” (“Can I get a hallelujah?”) gives way to the unnerving “When the Lights Come On” before a caustic screech of white noise and drums introduce “Car Crash,” it soon becomes apparent CRAWLER is no easy ride. “The New Sensation” and “Stockholm Syndrome” portray two very different sides of IDLES’ armory without either giving much away. Meanwhile, the self-effacing “Crawl!” and its sister piece “Meds” describe Talbot’s own personal struggles with addiction as graphically as he could possibly manage in just under eight minutes combined.

Sandwiched between two 30-second pieces—the ambient interlude “Kelechi” and hardcore punk thrash of “Wizz”—“Progress” takes on a relentless journey of its own. Layered guitars shimmer as Talbot repeats the mantra “As heavy as my bones were/I don’t wanna feel myself get high, high, high/Don’t come home, as good as your grace was/I don’t wanna feel myself come down, come home to,” over and over. As disturbing as it is subtle, this is the sound of catharsis and very few manage to relay such feelings as poignantly as IDLES.

Musically, “King Snake” is perhaps the closest CRAWLER comes to any IDLES record of yore. Its introduction and structure is not too dissimilar from that of “Mother” off 2017’s Brutalism, if the lyrical content is slightly more self-deprecating (“I’m yesterday’s news, tomorrow’s chip paper”).

Closing on “The End,” its refrain (“Cuts like a knife/Stings like a tick/Kicks like a mule/Acts like a prick”) is quite cutting as the music builds and gathers pace like the final pages of a diary, which is essentially what CRAWLER is intended to be. It’s a most brutal finale and one that should remove any doubts from IDLES’ detractors that they are indeed the real deal.

CRAWLER is the sound of a band intently looking forwards, even if that means revisiting their demons from the past. (

Author rating: 8/10

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