ALBUM REVIEW: Idles – A Beautiful Thing: Idles Live at Le Bataclan (Partisan Records)

It’s taken them 10 years, but over the course of two critically-acclaimed albums, Bristol band Idles have become one of Britain’s important acts.

Their first record, 2017’s Brutalism, established them as an exciting new name to look out for, and their second, last year’s Joy As An Act Of Resistance, saw them nominated as Best Breakthrough Act at this year’s Brit awards, and won awards from Q and Kerrang!

Don’t let that put you off though, because in these days of manufactured pop stars, Idles are the real deal.

They’ve been called a punk band, post-punk, hardcore and post-hardcore, but frontman Joe Talbot eschews all those labels. Put simply, Idles are in a class of their own.

Idles performing live at Le Bataclan. Pic: Lindsay Melbourne.

They sing about the decay of Britain under Tory rule, toxic masculinity and mental health, about immigration, and about making a difference through positive change, rather than anarchy.

They’re also a must-see live act, as evidenced by their recent show at the 10,000-capacity Alexandra Palace in London selling out in a matter of hours.

This double album, recorded at Le Bataclan in Paris, captures them at the peak of their powers, and anyone who’s ever seen Idles will listen to it and wish they were there.

During slow-building opener Colossus, Talbot breaks off to deliver what’s effectively Idles’ mission statement: “We built this album and we built this tour on love and compassion … if you’re in this crowd you look after each other … respect each other, show each other love, show each other how much you love live music, not aggression, but love and compassion.”

Idles performing live at Le Bataclan. Pic: Lindsay Melbourne.

The crowd favourites come thick and fast in the first part of the set, Never Fight A Man With A Perm and its insistent guitar riff followed by Mother (“the best way to scare a Tory is to read and get rich”).

I’m Scum is followed by Danny Nedelko, then early single Divide And Conquer, which is dedicated to “any nurses or doctors or physicians or cleaners who work for other people”.

With the set not yet halfway through, you wonder two things – how they sustain the anger and energy channelled into their music, and if they haven’t already played their trump cards.

But that’s reckoning without the depth and quality of their back catalogue , even two albums into their career. Benzocaine and Exeter lift things to a new level, and Well Done hammers home their socially conscious message: “Why don’t you get a job, even Tarquin has a job, Mary Berry’s got a job.”

Joe Talbot of Idles at Rebellion Festival in Blackpool in 2018. Pic: Gary Welford.

Traditional set closer Rottweiler, introduced to loud cheers as an anti-fascist song, lasts 10 minutes, and ends with swathes of feedback and noise, and incomprehensible yells from Talbot. It’s brilliant, breathtaking stuff, and while not all live albums work if you weren’t there, turn it up loud enough and this one transports you to the heart of the famous venue whose name will sadly always be associated with tragedy.

Idles might not consider themselves a punk band, but if punk is about an attitude, rather than a sound or what you wear, they are punk as fuck. And as a record of what they sounded like as they realised their true potential, this album is wonderful. 9/10.

Gary Welford owner