Written by Parisa Eshrati
Following their highly-acclaimed second release, Joy as an Act of Resistance, Idles are on their US tour with support of Dublin post-punkers Fontaines D.C. Below are impressions from the show, and the three life lessons this writer took away from Idles' aggressively uplifting messages.
Nine months following the release of their second album, Joy as an Act of Resistance, Idles are taking on a North American tour with Dublin-based post-punkers Fontaines D.C. The critically-acclaimed record focuses on themes of immigration, toxic masculinity, Brexit, all enveloped with messages of self-love. In a KEXP interview, Idles singer Joe Talbot said, "This album is an attempt to be vulnerable to our audience and to encourage vulnerability; a brave naked smile in this shitty new world." After seeing them in Phoenix last Monday at Valley Bar, I found that statement to be equally as true for their live experience as their recorded music.
As I was waiting for the show to start, I overheard people in the crowd comparing how long ago they bought their tickets, how long they’d been waiting to see them, and just how stoked they were that this show was finally happening. There was even a group of guys in shiny gold sequin jackets who had been following them for the last two weeks of the US tour. It seemed like everyone, myself including, was there for more than just a self-indulgent good time. Idles' shows harbor a sense of community and belonging, building upon their aggressively uplifting lyrics. So aside from seeing one of the best shows of the year (two years? decade? possibly my whole life?), I took away three big takeaway points from the whole experience:
1. Smash Your TV
God, is this the most cliche punk blabbering bullshit I could take away from a show? I mean yeah, but also not really. When it comes to Idles, this statement is less about being an edgy rebellious outcast and more about taking extreme measures of self-care. In the track “Television”, which Talbot wrote for his nine-year-old daughter, the chorus repeats:
I go outside
and I feel free
cause I smash mirrors
And fuck tv
Whereas most worn out punk songs tell you to smash your TV so you can be an angry punx holed up in your room and feel like an outcast, Idles actually paints a picture of all the life that awaits you outside of self-indulgence and insecurities. The song begins with the lyrics:
If someone talked to you
The way you do to you
I'd put their teeth through
I’ve heard these lyrics approximately a billion times, what with "Television" being my favorite song on the album and all, but there is something about being in a sold-out crowd of sweaty, intensely positive people screaming “I FEEL FREE!” through their gleaming smiles that makes you reconnect with humanity in a way that television really can’t.
(And I’ll be honest, I’ll still watch an old episode of The Simpsons every night before I go to bed, but the intention is there.)
2. Being an Asshole Isn’t Punk (also, neither is Idles)
At one point during the show, Talbot mentioned that it’s great people are getting so into the music and moshing around, but reminded us to take care of our neighbors and make sure no one gets hurt. Someone in the audience interjected his speech to say, “yeah, but stay punk as fuck!”
Talbot replied, “I hate to break it to you mate, but we’re not a fucking punk band. We’re Idles.”
Very fitting that they soon after went into the song “Samaritans”, a track about recognizing and destroying toxic masculinity. Being an ultra-masculine bro is not only toxic, but it sure as hell ain’t punk. Later, however, the band performed a quick acapella rendition of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You”, and Talbot snarled back to the crowd, “now THAT is punk", a sentiment I can whole-heartedly agree with.
3. Self-Love Rules
Idles is offering a whole new approach to self-love. From a young age, self-love is generally taught in a very passive manner - that it can be okay, but it borderlines on being selfish. Idles instead tells us to shout it from our lungs. Going to that show felt like a self-love declaration, joining the crowd in singing back Idles’ positive lyricism with full confidence. Plus, watching Idles play live with such extreme, fervent energy gives such an urgent feeling to these self-love messages. It’s not a suggestion, it’s a command. Turn off the TV, go outside, and love yourself.