Two years after the release of the seminal Joy as an Act of Resistance IDLES return with Ultra Mono. Teased with singles that are straight to the point and adorn with 80’s glam font, the third album from the Bristol outfit hits as hard as you can imagine the album art to. Ouch.
Joy… is an absolute masterpiece. It took the solid foundation of Brutalism and used it to challenge and subverts ideals that shouldn’t exist in the modern world. The focus turned towards toxic masculinity, classism, sexism, politics while also displaying a heart on its sleeve that cultivates the band’s all is love motto. To follow up something that brought ‘Samaritans’ into the world was always going to be tough, but Ultra Mono steps up and makes a strong case for itself. It’s the record that fights the man with a perm.
The formula of Ultra Mono does away with the patience that was heard on previous records, opting to let loose throughout rather than waiting for the right moments to kick off. ‘War’ gets things off with a driven riff that sounds hellish, delivered at a pace that admirably sticks around for the duration of the record. The thunderous drums heard on ‘Grounds’ are here too, sounding as good as they ever have. It doesn’t introduce the ears to the record but rather bursts the drums, boldly announcing that this balls-to-the-wall mentality is here to stay.
With this direct approach, IDLES revel in the speed to deliver their most energetic songs yet. The guitars flourish the most on this, delivering their most complete set of janky, angular riffs yet. ‘Anxiety’, ‘Reigns’ and ‘Danke’ are straight up bangers because of this, while ‘Kill Them With Kindness’ and ‘Carcinogenic’ inject some variety into the mix to freshen things up.
It makes Ultra Mono a great album, and arguably their most accessible to date. It showcases IDLES at their most straight forward, and features some of the best instrumentals of their discography. The lyricism does falter slightly, especially compared to some of the cuts from Joy…, but I’d also argue that they fit the aesthetic of the album and the to-the-point nature of Punk. ‘Model Village’ and ‘Ne Touch Pas Moi’ could come across as a little too on the nose because of this, but they are backed up by some gloriously catchy hooks. While it doesn’t make my heart bleed like Joy did, Ultra Mono certainly gets the blood pumping, so it’s all good.