Live4ever’s Best Of 2018: ‘It’s been a very compassionate exchange’ – Idles talk Joy As An Act Of Resistance

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Idles in Brooklyn during their Joy As An Act Of Resistance world tour (Paul Bachmann / Live4ever)

During 2018, bravery has come in many forms.

Upon the centenary of the Armistice, it was there on the faces of those experiencing the horrors of the Western Front, vividly brought back to life by Peter Jackson’s painstakingly restored footage. All things considered, its use should start and end there.

Yet it has also been used to describe Billy Monger, stood on artificial limbs last night collecting the Helen Rollason Award after returning to racing at the age of 19 less than a year on from his life-changing accident, speaking eloquently for as long as Clare Balding saw fit.

It’s been Eric Dier, a footballer who normally plays like he’s experiencing gravity differently to the rest of us, stepping up to take the decisive penalty during England’s shootout with Colombia at the World Cup. It’s been used to lend some narrative to a small group of bug-bitten celebrities gulping down mashed-up fish eyes for our viewing pleasure, complete with Holly Willoughby dry-wretching in the background.

And yes, it’s been used to describe the many virtues of Idles’ second studio album Joy As An Act Of Resistance.

“The biggest surprise is that in a very cynical world we’ve had such a positive reaction,” Joe Talbot told Live4ever before the world tour hit the Music Hall Of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. “Not in terms of, ‘your album’s really good’, more like they’ve reacted positively as people to our positive message, or our positive outlook.”

“Often positive outlooks or positive attitudes are reacted to with awful cynicism. Not just cynicism, that’s not awful, cynicism is often pragmatic, but just people being arseholes for the sake of it. But we’ve actually had a really positive reaction to it. It’s been a very compassionate exchange, and that’s a massive surprise.”

This positivity is key to the album’s charm. This is no slog. No lecture. It’s tough subject matter and serious intent done with a smile. This has always been key to Idles’ charm; a band with a knowing wink and having fun through it all. Joy quite literally captured on record.

“Whenever we were recording it,” Mark says, “I think it was one of the first times we heard all the lyrics to Never Fight A Man With A Perm properly, and every time we were doing a take – ‘you’re not a man you’re a gland, you’re one big neck with sausage hands’ – me and Dev would laugh our heads off. And you can hear that on the album, the rhythm of what I’m playing, faster, I kinda lose track there! That’s the funniest lyric on the album I think.”

It should be no surprise that Idles have placed a huge importance on the kinetic potential for change their band possesses, as there’s few others out there whose members’ lives have been so positively changed by its very existence. Each has their own personal story of redemption which this entity has coerced, and it’s this growth, rather than one song, which ties Joy As An Act Of Resistance together. “The anchor was the progress we made as people through the album’s ethos,” Joe explains to Live4ever. “Which came first, the songs came second really.”

“So the reason why it feels so good as an entity, as a journey, is because we’ve lived it and I feel better as a person now, so I can reflect on that and go, ‘actually yeah, this works’. Whereas song-wise there’s loads that really sum up the album perfectly for me. If an alien was to come down and ask what song summed it up? Danny Nedelko works, Colossus works really well for that. Samaritans. Television. I think it’s because we’re getting more concise in our artistic language that they all fit in with the ethos of the album. They should all speak to the listener in the same dialect because we’re working towards a more concise rhythm.”

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Idles playing Live At Leeds 2018 (Gary Mather / Live4ever)

It’s clear then, that Live4ever’s number one album of 2018 is built on very deliberate foundations: with the unrelenting focus on positivity, it has its central theme. With the evolution of the group – not just during the recording of this LP, nor since last year’s debut Brutalism, but since their formation – it has its central anchor. And in challenging the listener to change the language of their inner voice, it has a central goal. “Everyone talks to themselves like they’re a piece of s**t,” Joe believes.

“Everyone beats themselves up. Everyone thinks they’re ugly. Everyone thinks they’re not good enough. If they just took a minute to not look in the mirror and just listen to themselves and love themselves, or listen to themselves and respect themselves for who they truly are, then the world would be a better place. That is it, it’s a simple as it can get really.”

Joy As An Act Of Resistance exists because to them, art should be about exploration of one’s self. It should be fiercely honest, singular reflections on whatever medium is relevant to the artist; at exhibitions during their maiden world tour this year they’ve invited discussion, building a community where the album is addressed as a concept, where the vulnerability of the songs are laid bare to fans in exchange for something of their own. Joe concludes:

“Then we sell that result and give the money to charity. Which is the perfect example of what we’re trying to do: two parties, acting vulnerably, to a better place for the benefit of society.”

This year Joe didn’t go over the top, Dev took no penalties, Bobo didn’t eat any sheep brains (well he may have done, but not yet for the purposes of ITV light entertainment). Exactly how brave they have been depends on where you think the definition should sit on this particular scale.

What they did do was release Joy As An Act Of Resistance. An album on which their singer shares with us, with any stranger willing to listen, the heartbreaking experience of losing a newborn child. An album on which the band takes an extinguisher to the toxic, demonising Trumpian/Faragian flames of generalisation which so inadequately inform the tone of today’s international politics by stripping everything down to an individual, to a friend, to personal experience, all while screaming ‘unity!’.

An album which constantly shames the facades of masculinity and thus, by persuading just one person to pick up a phone, to talk, to share not hide, even has the capacity to save a life.

Whatever bravery means, when the music world looks back on 2018 these will be our heroes.

(Dave Smith)

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