The Hang of Music: Idle or wild?
Idlewild are a band that I never know what to make of. I have at least two conflicting emotions about them: whenever I’m thinking of them in abstract, I always remember them as being… a bit dull. But every now and then, a song of theirs will pop up on random, and I’ll say “Oh, this sounds good; who is it? … This is Idlewild? It sounds way too interesting!”
Well no more! I am sorting out these shenanigans once and for all, with these “100 Broken Windows”.
THE NEXT STOP ON THIS SERVICE WILL BE GAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH! Sorry, trying to tune out the tannoy is difficult.I am writing this on a train, for those of you who are uninitiated into the joy of public transport. I have to admit, it makes it kind of hard for me to write a good review; I am missing important things like the internet and easy access to the lyrics.*
Which would have been really useful, because some of the songs sound like they actually have lyrics. Good ones, or at least sentences that make sense and have themes, as well as rhyme and stick to the melody. “These Wooden Ideas” really sounds like it’s saying something.** And other lines, such as “Why can’t you be more cynical?” are just quite funny!
From the lyrics; now calling at – Vocals. A lot of the songs have a heavy emphasis on the pretty strong, sometimes Stipe-like, sometimes Turner-esque, but overall rather unambitious singing. Which is fair enough, except it’s at the expense of the other instruments. Unless this is the point at which the guitar is supposed to leap up and be noticed, then it pretty much stays in the background, biding it’s time. And bass? Forget about it!
The only instrument which doesn’t fall victim to this is the drums. Why’s this? It could be because drums rock…
Yeah, but more likely it’s because of incapable of modulating and maintaining their sonority, as they require a gargantuan agglomeration of insulation to maintain even the basest modicum of quietude. Also, drums’re fukken loud.
As I sit, stuck between Thurnscoe and Goldthorpe,*** I am forced to conclude that musically, the tracks on here leave something to be desired. Usually when they’ve decided not to go hell for leather. Because their style of play works well when done fast – not so much when played slowly. Which they do rather a lot. For a band that doesn’ play much punk, they are far too enamoured with power chords.
Here’s a thought! Maybe both of my original reactions were right! Maybe they’re both boring and good. Maybe their individual songs are pretty good, but the albums in total dull. Or even some song sections good, and others bad. Take “Listen to What You’ve Got” for one.
It starts off so well. Like Weezer on one of their angrier b-sides. Then, as it goes into the verse, the previously pretty cool sounding guitar manages to merge into something entirely musically uninteresting*****. And then, in time for the end, it’s back to sounding pretty good again. And onto the next song. And so on, and so forth.
Success! My train’s finally arrived at my destination, and here I am, back in Sheffield, precisely where I started from! How telling that this seems to fit my opinion of Idlewild and their second album: I’m starting to think that my original response of ambivalence is a just one. And I mean ambivalence – some of their songs and ideas sound really quite interesting and fun and catchy, whereas the others are just dull as dishwater. I find them sometimes boring, sometimes interesting, and I think that’s how it’s gonna stay for a while.
* OK, I’m obviously not on a train anymore, otherwise this wouldn’t be published. But I was as I wrote this. Well most of this. Bear with me, I’m going to turn it into a framing device!
** On later inspection, it is saying something only in so far as it keeps repeating the verse/chorus over and over again. Ironic? Or brilliant. Who can say?
*** Yes, real places. And I thought Gypsy Lane was a weird one!****
**** Well, it still is.
***** It sounds better live. The album version isn’t as good. However, it’s always better to be better live!