IDLES

IDLES

The Beachland Ballroom

CRAWLER

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Released November 12 2021

When IDLES released their third album, Ultra Mono, in September 2020, singer Joe Talbot told Apple Music that it was focused on being present and, he said, “accepting who you are in that moment.” On the Bristol band’s fourth record, which arrived 14 months later, that perspective turns sharply back to the past as Talbot examines his struggles with addiction. “I started therapy and it was the first time I really started to compartmentalize the last 20 years, starting with my mum’s alcoholism and then learning to take accountability for what I’d done, all the bad decisions I’d made,” he tells Apple Music’s Zane Lowe. “But also where these bad decisions came from—as a forgiveness thing but way more as a responsibility thing. Two years sober, all that stuff, and I came out and it was just fluid, we [Talbot and guitarist Mark Bowen] both just wrote it and it was beautiful.”

Talbot is unshrinkingly honest in his self-examination. Opener “MTT 420 RR” considers mortality via visceral reflections on a driving incident that the singer was fortunate to escape alive, before his experiences with the consuming cycle of addiction cut through the pneumatic riffs of “The Wheel.” There’s hope here, too. During soul-powered centerpiece “The Beachland Ballroom,” Talbot is as impassioned as ever and newly melodic (“It was a conversation we had, I wanted to start singing”). It’s a song where he’s on his knees but he can discern some light. “The plurality of it is that perspective of CRAWLER, the title,” he says. “Recovery isn’t just a beautiful thing, you have to go through a lot of processes that are ugly and you’ve got to look at yourself and go, ‘Yeah, you were not a good person to these people, you did this.’ That’s where the beauty comes from—afterwards you have a wider perspective of where you are. And also from other people’s perspectives, you see these things, you see people recovering or completely enthralled in addiction, and it’s all different angles. We wanted to create a picture of recovery and hope but from ugly and beautiful angles. You’re on your knees, some people are begging, some people are working, praying, whatever it is—you’ve got to get through it.”

CRAWLER may be IDLES’ most introspective work to date, but their social and political focus remains sharp enough on the tightly coiled “The New Sensation” to skewer Conservative MP Rishi Sunak’s suggestion that some people, including artists and musicians, should abandon their careers and retrain in a post-pandemic world. With its rage and wit, its bleakness and hope, and its diversions from the band’s post-punk foundations into ominous electronica (“MTT 420 RR”), glitchy psych textures (“Progress”), and motorik rhythms butting up against free jazz (“Meds”), CRAWLER upholds Talbot’s earliest aims for the band. In 2009, he resolved to create something with substance and impact—an antidote to the bands he’d watched in Bristol and London. “They looked beautiful but bored,” he says. “They were clothes hangers, models. I was so sick of paying money to see bored people. Like, ‘What are you doing? Where’s the love?’ I was at a place where I needed an outlet, and luckily I found four brothers who saved my life. And the rest is IDLES.”