It’s Ultra Mono Eve! Yep, the best boyband from Bristol since Bon Jovi release their third and best (? —quite probably) album on 25th September. If my spidey-senses are working correctly, IDLES are about to become the most important band in the world. To celebrate, I’ve put together a light-hearted look at some of IDLES best videos so far.
Videos are important. They tell you a lot about an artist. Do they take themselves very seriously? Are they all about the posing and what they’re wearing? Have they spent a million quid on a choreographed dance routine inside a disco ball? You can rest assured that IDLES do none of these things, yet their videos are endlessly entertaining, poignant and powerful. These are some of my favourites so far.
War, Ultra Mono
Ok, so “War” can’t be a favourite yet as I haven’t seen it! “War” is the opening track to Ultra Mono and it rips your head off. I have absolutely no idea what the video will be like. It’s unlikely to be a Game of Thrones-style battle of the bastards unless they got hundreds of people to fight each other with sticks 2 metres apart. Most, in fact all, I think, of the Ultra Mono vids so far have been recorded during lockdown so with the exception of Michel Gondry and his brother’s animated short for “Model Village”, they have a DIY feel. I like that. Will this one be animated? Will the band feature? I think it’s fair to assume that as this track is a call to arms, we will have some pretty momentous imagery in this one. We will find out tomorrow. Watch this space 👇🏾
Stendhal Syndrome, Brutalism
Stendhal Syndrome was the first track I heard by IDLES, and it made such an impact I hurriedly jumped onto the YouTube to see what they looked like. I didn’t quite find out from this video, but oh my, it was greater than my wildest dreams.
Frontman Joe Talbot, has experienced Stendhal Syndrome (an overpowering reaction to a work or works of art) on several occasions, and while there is an obvious class divide in the art world, with the wealthy seeming to think art is a language only they understand, Joe flips the criticism to the other side of the argument. Those who complain that modern art is “just someone flicking a paintbrush at a canvas and charging thousands for it”. Those who reckon that they could do better than that. Well, go on then! As with all forms of art, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and if you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. (Yeah, I’m not the greatest critic in the world am I?).
Did you see that selfie what Francis Bacon did?
Don’t look nothing like him, what a f*cking div
The beauty of this video is wonderful bassist Adam ‘Dev’ Devonshire dancing in a variety of art galleries; dancing like everyone is watching because they are. Clearly, no f*cks were given that day and they must have had so much fun recording this footage that it goes straight to the top of my list.
Mr Motivator, Ultra Mono
The first track released from album number three was this beauty. Fans were bowled over by this tune which completely sums up what IDLES are all about. Yes, they often have very serious messages in their songs, but it’s not all doom and gloom. IDLES encourage people to keep going, to love themselves, to join hands and as a community fight back against the oppressors. They do it with humour and love and promote non-violent protest. Isn’t that exactly what the world needs right now? Haters will always hate, of course, they like that.
Like Kathleen Hanna with bear Claws grabbing Trump by the pussy
Mr Motivator is a montage of clips sent in by IDLES fans from the AFGANG, the band themselves and some other special guests (such as Bambara) all brilliantly dressed and working out in their homes. Filmed at the beginning of lockdown, it will forever be a time capsule of the year 2020. For me, it shows the power of music to bring joy, strength and inspiration. I honestly don’t know how I would have mentally survived without music this year—hopefully the governments will recognise that when it comes to funding for the arts. Wouldn’t bet on it though, which is precisely why we need to seize the day.
Danny Nedelko, Joy as an Act of Resistance
Danny Nedelko is the real-life singer of the band Heavy Lungs and a friend of IDLES. Hailing from Ukraine, the track highlights the importance of immigration and is a celebration of multiculturalism and diversity. The Danny Nedelko is featured in the video, along with immigrants from all over the world working in the UK, holding up the ‘OK’ 👌🏼 hand gesture, reclaiming it from white nationalists. It’s a beautiful thing, and a really uplifting anthem too.
My blood brother’s Freddie Mercury
A Nigerian mother of three
I get quite sentimental watching “Danny Nedelko” now, seeing all these beautiful people hugging and dancing. Remember when we could do that? It was nice, wasn’t it?
Colossus, Joy as an Act of Resistance
The opening track to Joy is ominous and brooding, slowly building up to what I believe is the greatest shift change in a song ever. “Colossus” was written by Joe about his anxiety about needing to be a successful man, a successful artist and a successful person, and the weight of pressure that carries. The video reflects that perfectly with Joe burying his head in a bush, a newspaper, a birthday cake, a shopping bag and the laundry, from within which we see his increasingly panicked face.
I’m like Stone Cold Steve Austin
I put homophobes in coffins
Guitarist Mark Bowen features as Fred Astaire and Ted DiBiase, Dev as Stone Cold Steve Austin, drummer Jon as Evel Knievel, and Lee as Jesus. Perfect.
Mother is an incredibly powerful song, penned by Joe partly about his own mother who had to work increasingly long hours to support her family. She became an alcoholic, and eventually had a stroke. Joe cared for his mother up to her death shortly before Brutalism was released. It’s also about the other women in Joe’s life and women in general—the misconception of women and motherhood. The woman in the picture on the wall in the video is Joe’s mum.
Sexual violence doesn’t start and end with rape
It starts in our books and behind our school gates
Men are scared women will laugh in their face
Whereas women are scared it’s their lives men will take
Joe was inspired by the Margaret Atwood quote, “Men are scared that women will laugh at them. Women are scared that men will kill them”. It sums up how little empathy men can have for women over sexual assault. It’s a pervasive and complex phenomenon that makes women fear for their lives. The smashing of hundreds of horrible ceramic ornaments looks incredibly gratifying and Joe, Lee and Bowen all look spectacular in pink.
Samaritans, Joy as an Act of Resistance
I love this video, despite the band not featuring in it themselves. The footage put together really shoves the horror of toxic masculinity in your face and highlights just how stupid and hypocritical it all is. Too often do we still hear “man up”, “grow some balls” and the like used towards men and boys. It’s that kind of language that stops men being able to truly be themselves, admit their fears and open up. It’s dangerous, and we have some truly toxic men in charge of the US and the UK.
The mask of masculinity
Is a mask, a mask that’s wearing me
Taking inspiration from Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” when Joe screams, “I kissed a boy and I liked it”, it’s a hugely powerful moment of liberty and self-acceptance.
Samaritans is a UK charity that provides emotional support to anyone in emotional distress, struggling to cope or having suicidal thoughts. Everything you say to them is in confidence. They do not judge any of your thoughts or actions, they only provide emotional support.
Romantic Gestures, Meat EP
It’s an oldie, but a goodie. In fact, possibly my favourite IDLES song of all time (that changes daily). This one really hits a nerve as it’s about the dark side of relationships. Visualised by Joe shortly after the track’s inception, the video lays bare the corrosive contents of “that dank sh*tty corner of the heart that reeks of jealousy and would eat their lover alive in order to keep them”.
Death by chocolate
Take my heart
And the Flowers I stole
The boys look so young! This was released in 2015, so that would be why. It is a chilling video, highlighting how romantic gestures can be used to hold people hostage in relationships; supposed acts of love, which are really just done to control and gaslight you into thinking you couldn’t find a love better than this.
This one isn’t on an album, but was a single released with “I Dream Guillotine” after Joy was released. It’s a great track, with an excellent video—it could almost be an episode of Black Mirror. It follows a male office worker who bangs his head against his desk, the car steering wheel, the pub table, the fridge, going through the monotonous torture of everyday life while no-one notices his turmoil or, if they do, they don’t really care enough to do anything about it.
Suicide’s for cowards he said
Whilst sat drinking himself to death
Two blokes at the pub go to help him when they see him passed out at the table, but all they do is bring him around and put him right back to where he was before. No real help, no trying to get to the root of the problem, just keep going and stop being a burden—a sentiment that could be repeated for how the government treats its people.
Never Fight a Man With a Perm, Joy as an Act of Resistance
And last but not least, NFAMWAP is one of IDLES more comical tunes, though still an absolute banger. Every lyric is brilliant; a complete put down of men that think they’re hard. Joe readily admits he wrote this with his own past in mind, and how ridiculous it was looking back.
Me, oh me, oh my, Roy
You look like a walking thyroid
You’re not a man, you’re a gland
You’re one big neck with sausage hands
The video is animated and depicts the band as characters in a fighting game, with Joe meeting various enemies for some fisticuffs. It’s pretty gruesome and very silly. Sound advice from Joe on this one; never fight a man with a perm, anyone that brazenly crazy has nothing to lose.
Divide & Conquer, Brutalism
This uncompromising track is about the systematic and deliberate destruction of the NHS. Joe gets attacked in the video and doesn’t fight back—a metaphor for what the British public are doing by idly standing by and allowing, even voting, for this to happen.
A loved one perished at the hand of the baron-hearted right
Throughout the video, messages pop up for a split second, such as “The Health & Social Care Act 2012 abolished the government’s duty to provide us with healthcare” and “The NHS repair budget has been slashed by £1.1bn”. It is important for us to remember this in the aftermath of Covid-19. The NHS must be protected if we are to survive this and future global health scares.
So there we go! Those were my favourite IDLES videos so far. Ultra Mono is released 25 September on Partisan Records.
You can also buy tickets for their 2021 tour here, with recently announced support from entirely female-led acts, from Anna Calvi, Jehnny Beth, Shopping, Wych Elm, Cate Le Bon, Big Joanie, Sinead O’Brien and Witch Fever.