Album review: 'Ultra Mono' by Idles

Tom Moorcroft reviews the latest from IDLES

Tom Moorcroft
25th September 2020
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Ultra Mono has proven to be an ultra album with a not-so monotonous sound.

Already teasing a couple of the tracks from their upcoming project, such as ‘Mr Motivator’, ‘Model Village’ and ‘Grounds’, fans of the Bristol formed punk-rockers have been greatly anticipating their new album: Ultra Mono.

They’ve opened up on a number of relevant issues they’re hoping to tackle with this album, or at least shine a light upon their harsh prevalence in our society. These are, but not limited to; class, gender inequality, nationalism and a twisted sense of ‘community’.

Without further ado, let’s dive deep into how these issues are exposed and explored by Talbot and co...

The opening track, ‘War’ is a fitting introduction to the heavy and explosive narratives of the album, with a heavy bass riff and pumping drums which crescendo into the chaos and confusion of 2020. With raw vocal melodies from Talbot and a static and punchy rhythm, it gets you completely ready for the experience that is Ultra Mono. One song in and Idles have already tackled a social dilemma, challenging the nature of war with lyrics such as “Send Sally to the sandbox baby // We’re gunning for the stone-faced liars”.

'Grounds' is a much more electronic and almost rap inspired track. Whilst most of their songs are headbangers, this is more of a head-bobber, with a stripped back verse with occasionally harsh guitar and bass lines. It’s nice to see Idles stray from the conventions of punk rock in their music, as they challenge further themes and genres.

We wanted to make the sound of our own hearts’ marching band, armed with a jack hammer and a smile. We wanted to make the sound of our engine starting. So we did. Thank you.”

Talbot on ‘Grounds’

'Mr Motivator'. This is much more of a classic Idles track, and after it’s release during lockdown it already has a guaranteed spot on future Idles setlists. The constant similes offer not only a bit of comic relief but also some relevant thought-provoking statements.

‘Anxiety’ is the perfect example of how Idles work to challenge our government directly, adding profound and powerful lyrics on a bed of punk rock goodness. If you haven’t heard much of Idles before, give this lyric a gander and I’m sure you’ll want to discover more.

“Our government hates the poor // Cold leaders, cold class war // Given drugs you can't afford // So the poor can't buy the cure”

Another standout song which also challenges the people upstairs directly would be 'Model Village'. You can check out my in depth analysis of the track here!

Then we have the French titled 'Ne Touche Pas Moi', which translates to 'Don't Touch Me'. Along with French musician Jehnny Beth they tackle the issue of sexual abuse at gigs or on nights out, with such lines as “This is my dance space” and “This is a sawn-off // For the cat-callers”. Talbot has always been a keen advocate of equality at his gigs, and it reminds me of when they performed at Glastonbury and stated, after a mosh pit was formed, “The radius is only men. If there are no women in the circle it is not a circle, but a phallus”.

'Carcinogenic' is a much lighter take on the punk rock genre, with slightly distorted guitar chords and Talbot not shouting as raw or as powerful as is the norm, bar the chorus of course, when he explodes into a frenzy on drugs and love. It really goes to show how the latter portion of the album is a much softer, but still just as hard, node to that classic Idles tone.

'The Hymn' may be my favourite track off the new album. I love the melancholy and eerie introduction, which fades into a speedy guitar riff and their classic chugging bass. It’s an extremely minor and progressive song, accompanied by one repetitive message. Talbot low and depressive mannerism whilst repeating the phrase “I want to be loved // Everybody does”. I love the high octane powerful Idles tracks just like the next fan, but these slow churners allow me to explore their expressive side on a whole other level, and I can’t get enough of it.

Released during a period of civil unrest and anxiety in the UK, and around the world, these tunes needed to be heard now more than ever. After listening through the album a couple times I’m certain they’ll be welcomed with open arms.


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AUTHOR: Tom Moorcroft
Head of Sport for The Courier. Current 3rd year English Literature and History student. Love writing about sports/music, playing the guitar and Everton FC!

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