On November 12th, British rock band IDLES released their new album, CRAWLER. Co-produced by Kenny Beats – yes, the same Kenny Beats who does “The Cave” and has produced for Vince Staples, Rico Nasty, and Freddie Gibbs, among others – CRAWLER still has the same punk aesthetic as the other IDLES albums. However, there are some tracks here that seem a bit more atmospheric and soulful than IDLES have been in the past, and those are the moments that truly sucked me in.
At the end of opening track “MTT 420 RR,” IDLES frontman Joe Talbot asks the listener: “Are you ready for the storm?” The majority of the track is the aforementioned atmospheric and soulful, so this question seems to be both a warning to newer IDLES fans and a primer for older IDLES fans to get ready for what’s about to come. And my lord, is what comes next absolutely a storm.
“The Wheel” is the hardcore punk perfection that IDLES have become known for. Equal parts sinister and enveloping, “The Wheel” is the start of the previously mentioned storm. And on “When the Lights Come On,” though more post punk than hardcore, is a continuation of that storm. “When the Lights Come On” features some of my favorite lyrics on this project, though there are plenty of lyrical gems throughout the album. “When the Lights Come On,” though, has lines like “I danced grief from my pores,” “I’m in a paralytic loveless dream,” and “I wanna tear through the night like an angel flare.”
Part of what makes “When the Lights Come On” stand out is the production. While most of the album features punk vocals – insane amounts of distortion that sometimes masks the words being sung – “When the Lights Come On” is one of the songs where those amazing lines stand out amidst the chaos. “Car Crash” sounds like IDLES doing Death Grips, which is fantastic, and the line “I’m a car crash” is awesome.
Honestly, the lyricism on this album is what makes it stand out. The sound is very standard IDLES on some tracks while being subversive and forward-moving on others, and the instrumentals are all astounding. However, the lyricism on tracks like “When the Lights Come On,” “Car Crash,” “The New Sensation,” “Stockholm Syndrome,” and “The Beachland Ballroom” is some of the best in IDLES’ discography. That’s not even mentioning the “Meds” and “King Snake.” Lines like “Then scream ‘I’ll die for the cause,’ what else could your lungs be for;” “How can I feel myself when I can’t even feel my face;” “I’ve got plenty who’d come and save me but I choose to run and hide;” and “The jack of fuck all” are absolutely fantastic.
That also isn’t even mentioning the energy that comes through on this album. Sometimes it’s hard to capture the raw energy of punk in any sort of production, but Kenny Beats and IDLES guitarist Mark Bowen have captured that energy and expanded on it. While it might be hard to understand the lyrics at times because of the vocal distortion, the energy and the passion behind the tracks is never in question. Even on more subdued tracks like “The Beachland Ballroom” and “Progress,” the passion is still palpable.
The only track on this album that doesn’t really work is, regrettably, “The End.” After “King Snake,” it would make sense to either go completely insane or subdue it again, and “The End” just matches the energy of “King Snake,” if not taking it back only slightly. It just ends on a sour note, but every moment leading up to that one-ups the moment that preceded it in some way, and that’s why “The End” is disappointing. It feels like the only track that takes a step backwards from its predecessor.
All of that being said, CRAWLER is still a phenomenal album. As someone who isn’t usually a big hardcore punk fan, this absolutely blew me away. There were moments that seemed more accessible, and those made it easier to step into the moments that used to be completely off-putting. If you’re on the fence about IDLES in general, listen to “When the Lights Come On,” “The New Sensation,” and “Meds,” in that order, to ease your way in. And then listen to the whole thing to feel the flow.
CRAWLER is IDLES at their best. It’s jarring. It’s sinister. It’s subversive. It’s energetic. Check it out below, and let us know what you think!