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  • Emma Egan + Emily Marshman

ALBUM REVIEW: IDLES return to joy with TANGK

With their fifth (!!!) studio album, IDLES have returned to take us on a joyous ride – for forty minutes we trek through a tale of love, blood, sweat, and dance. Furthering an evolution that began with Crawler in 2021, TANGK takes a strong step forward to a softer, more complex IDLES that’s still in keeping with the spitting edge of their past. Screams of gratitude and hard-fought joy give TANGK’s gospel its power. 

Album opener “Idea 01” begins with steady drums, which almost punch you in the face and scream, “We’re meant to mimic a heartbeat!” But it’s effective; as the track swells, it does its job to bring you into the world of TANGK, and before we realize it, we’re onto track two. “Gift Horse” is not so gentle – it doesn’t ease you in so much as throw you headlong into a dogfight.  IDLES have this impeccable ability to balance chaos and order across an album and this is a great example of that, especially since the follow up to “Gift Horse” is the more heavily-electronic “POP POP POP.” This one is a bit further away from what we’re typically used to from this band, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. With a knowing nod to Bristol's trip hop history, this track marks the beginning of IDLES seamless genre bending throughout TANGK, deepening the thesis of IDLES – “all is love and love is all.”

“Roy” is one track that immediately pulled us in. There’s a really effective use of drums and discordant bass notes at the start to induce anxiety in the listener – it’s enough to raise the hairs on the back of your neck – before clean guitars are brought in to soothe our worries. Until all-out chaos ensues in that chorus: “Baby, baby, baby, / I’m a smart man / but I’m dumb for you.” “Roy” is grandiose in a way we haven’t seen from IDLES; it feels dark and lush, luring you in with sweetened vocals, and crashing down on you with modulating synths that fill every corner of the track.

Halfway through, and it’s time for heartbreak. “A Gospel” is a piano ballad, an aching recitation of the last fleeting days of a relationship: “You stole my Northy / I didn’t laugh / I guess my girl was right / We weren’t meant to last / I know you better / I’m your half / Just tell me darling / And I’ll be your past.”

(Original image credit of Daniel Topete)

As our introduction to this new era of IDLES, it makes total sense for “Dancer” to be the first song you hear when you switch discs. It really embodies what I think IDLES, especially an IDLES gig, stands for – “I can taste the mood in my mouth / Like particles of punch drunk love / And the sweat / Bold moves, ice rink, lines cut / From the moves they make / So to speak.” When you’re at an IDLES gig, don’t think, just move – move with respect for the bodies around you and the bodies that aren’t there and should be.

LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy and Nancy Whang lend their voices in the choruses and the outro of “Dancer,” but I don’t think that’s all they’ve given to this album. “Grace” reminds me a lot of something that would have been on This Is Happening, or maybe their 2005 self-titled record. It’s obvious that being on the road together for an entire summer bled into their work. The vocals on this one are softer, but the rhythm section brings everything all together, making it without a doubt one of the strongest tracks on the album.

Hear me out: “Hall & Oates” is to TANGK as “Rottweiler” is to Joy as an Act of Resistance. Every IDLES album needs the perfect push pit song and I, for one, can’t wait to participate. “Jungle” also calls back to the jangly, no-holds-barred rhythmic celebration of Joy, and even seen later on Crawler, that perfect way that IDLES finds to point a finger at authority, because there can be no joy without resistance, without community care and action. This one feels like a call and response of sorts between Joe and the rest of the band: “Save me from me / I’m found, I’m found, I’m found.”

“Gratitude” says, look – I know the world is terrible. I know our world leaders are driving us to extinction to make a quick buck, but I am grateful that you are here with me to remind me who I really am, and what really matters. There’s some pleasant ear candy moments with the rhythm section, but when you listen to this one with headphones, the synth rings in your ears for a beat longer than is comfortable.

The choice to close the album with “Monolith” was a solid one. “Tell my boys I’ll be back in spring / I’ve found myself my own king,” Joe [Talbot] nearly whispers, calling back to “Gift Horse”’s “No god, no king / I said, ‘Love is the thing’.” Love is king now. The saxophone at the end blends back into the heartbeat-esque drumbeats of “Idea 01,” and we’re back where we started.

TANGK is a testament to the idea that allowing yourself to be soft in a world that seems to fight against kindness and compassion might actually be the most punk thing you can do. It’s also a cry for compassion - to open yourself up and risk the hurt of the world to rediscover love and community. As Talbot puts it, “If you give people everything on stage, they’ll give you everything back… I wanted to bring that to a record. I’ve got more strength in me than I ever have, and it comes from love".

(Original image credit of Daniel Topete)

The fact that we [Emma and Emily] were both drawn to the same songs on our separate initial listens-through tells me that this is, as a body of work, truly cohesive, and that it knows exactly what it wants to say. TANGK is a celebration of love as a concept, in all its forms, and love in practice, and the many ways in which we make time in our lives to practice it.

And of course IDLES know exactly what they want to say – they’ve been at this for long enough that they’ve honed their craft into a finely-tuned machine that kills cynicism and despair. At first, their strategy was fists, all fists, but recently it’s turned away from a puffed-out chest and folded inward, into self-compassion, into whatever helps you keep hopelessness and anger from your doorstep.

TANGK is all love, all the time. It feels like the perfect culmination of nearly a decade’s worth of work – it’s IDLES at their rawest, and it almost feels like a band anew. 

The band are playing two sold-out shows in and around London this weekend to support the record’s release, and the TANGK European tour begins at the end of this month. You can head to their website to see if they’ll be playing your city and if so, grab tickets, as a lot of the shows are either sold out or well on their way – and trust us, you won’t want to miss them.


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