IDLES’ new album redefines their sound, but this departure from their prior records isn’t consistent across ‘Crawler‘, providing a mixed bag of tracks that hamper the experience as a whole. This isn’t to say IDLES have completely departed from what made them great. Talbot provides shouty but often poignant lyrics to the album that are a great experience for punk fans, backed with seriously impressive drumming and driving guitars over the album’s 46-minute run time. This does however bring up one of the more disappointing aspects of ‘Crawler‘, it’s simply too long.
For every fantastic track there is a disappointing filler song, with Kelechi and Wizz feeling very low effort and MTT 420 RR continuing for a good minute longer than it should, souring a potentially excellent song. Other tracks prove disappointing too, with When the Lights Come On repeating the age-old lyric “The kids are not alright!” feeling somewhat overplayed when compared to other tracks on ‘Crawler’.
The album is thematically very interesting though, with the repeated images of road accidents providing a haunting background to the record, especially with Car Crash and the aforementioned MTT 420 RR – making the repeated idea of substance abuse feel particularly raw and relevant. The themes from the band’s initial few records shine through the new album, but long-time fans may be disappointed in the changing sound, especially when comparing the record to 2017’s excellent ‘Brutalism‘ and 2018’s Mercury prize shortlisted ‘Joy as an Act Of Resistance.’, which both felt far more consistent than ‘Crawler’.
‘Crawler‘ holds several contenders for best song of the year
The new sound is very diverse but is still IDLES, with Talbot’s instantly recognisable style of vocals and heavy guitar backing throughout the album, building on the sound of the previous 3 albums. This new sound is often very successful, ‘Crawler‘ holds several contenders for best song of the year. The Beachland Ballroom showcases a melancholic but thoroughly enjoyable new direction for the band and The New Sensation has an excellent hook and easily shoutable lyrics, an IDLES classic.
Some serious musical talent, exemplified with impressive drumming
‘Crawler’ has a distinctly more relaxed feel than the explosive ‘Ultra Mono‘, but is still exciting and punky, taking some of the better elements from the previous album and simultaneously utilising the more subtle political elements of their first two records. Crawler also features some serious musical talent, exemplified with impressive drumming, especially on The End, showcasing the band’s overall talent.
Talbot’s lyricism is often very good, especially in The End, with the line “In spite of it all / life is beautiful”, a great send off to the album. Tracks like King Snake and Crawl! fit neatly within the IDLES discography, sounding more familiar (though arguably a bit too formulaic) to long-time fans and proving some enjoyable but somewhat surplus tracks to the album. This being said, Crawl! features some fantastic guitar work from Mark Bowen and Lee Kiernan, who both perform at their best.
This album has incredible highs and disappointing lows, grasping at greatness but slightly missing the mark. Where some tracks argue that this album is a contender for best of the year, others remind listeners of IDLES shortcomings, problems that should have been ironed out over their last few projects. ‘Crawler‘ is absolutely worth a listen, but don’t expect a perfect album by any means.
Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
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