IDLES - Press Photo 1 by Tom Ham

“TANGK” – Reminding us that anger hides a whole lot of joy, that punk is more about love than anything else

Dan Harrison




Genres: Rock, post-punk, bunker-punk, quiet ‘n loud

I was on a dock last summer with a person I love when our hair started floating up off our shoulders, just a few strands at a time. So we laughed, uneasy at first, then marveled at this, the crackling air, and the whole time we watched a thunderstorm roll towards us over the lake, and only when we ran inside under sheets of rain did we realize how the storm had wrapped us up in itself.

I’m finding this same sense of unease in TANGK, the new record from British band IDLES. The album is full of restraint – each listen paints a picture of a band barely held together, fingers itching to play and voices trying not to yell, and it’s thanks to this restraint that the loud tracks hit so damn well. It’s as if the whole album is circling some explosive centerpiece, waiting for sheets of rain and forks of lightning. When it strikes, it strikes. 

IDLES are the first to say they aren’t a punk band, but “Dancer,” the sonic centerpiece of the album, begs to differ. “Dancers hip to hip, dancing cheek to cheek” roars frontman Joe Talbot, backed by a guest feature from LCD Soundsystem. The industrial guitar drones on, but don’t be fooled by Talbot’s simple lyricism, as he follows up with gems like “I can taste the mood in my mouth like particles of punch-drunk love.” It’s an ode to the mosh-pit, a call for everyone to get up and lose themselves in a crowd, in a song, in a feeling. If that’s not punk we’ve lost our way. 

But punk begs for something to rage against, and this is where IDLES walk their own path. Foreshadowed by 2018’s Joy as an Act of Resistance, this album’s obsession is love. “All is love and love is all,” sings Talbot on “Gift Horse,” punctuated by a gravelly “Fuck the king,” in case you worry they’ve drifted from their roots in British-working class protest music. “Pop pop pop,” is the band at their most experimental, drifting towards hip-hop not unlike that of Death Grips, but even here they hang onto love as Talbot sings “Freudenfreude / Joy on joy.” This latter flips “schadenfreude” on its head, taking pleasure in joy itself. 

“Roy” might be their most traditional song, driven by a drum part that drags you along with it until you’re face to face with Talbot screaming “Baby, baby, baby,” watching his voice crack in the cold air. The following track, “A Gospel” drops you back into the anxious silence, knowing what the band is capable of and knowing how they deny it. 

That’s the brilliance in this record – the restraint, the loud highs and the quiet lows, the simple lyricism draped over poetry.

I wish I had this record on that dock last summer, and I wish I had it as we watched the storm ravage a world outside. I wish I put it on so we could have raged to the world inside, hip to hip, cheek to cheek, every moment a mosh pit, reminding us that anger hides a whole lot of joy, that punk is more about love than anything else, that sometimes the best part of a storm is the moment you know it’s coming. IDLES understands this, and they aren’t afraid to make you wait. Next time you want to let it all out and feel something real, reach for TANGK, let it fly, and rage, rage against the dying of the light.