Label: Partisan Records
Release Date: 14th July 2020
"Expression doesn’t just have to come in the form of shouting and rage: it can also be delivered with confession and allusion, concluded with a slow, fading heartbeat."
“I wanna be loved/ Everybody does” are the first, ominous words of IDLES’ third single ‘A Hymn’, released on the 14th of July ahead of Ultra Mono, due for release in September.
Whilst previous releases ‘Mr. Motivator’ and ‘Grounds’ follow their typical forceful style in both sound and political persuasion, ‘The Hymn’ is somewhat stripped-back for the Bristol band.
The constant drumbeat paired with a mellow, rising guitar mimics the fluctuating wave of lead singer Joe Talbot’s tide of emotion. “I lost ten pounds for the wedding” and other elusive statements feel resentful. Is this a jilted lover singing? A pissed-off ex? Others feel particularly poetic: “I played happy til my teeth hurt”, Talbot groans on the first verse.
And as with all good poems, we don’t quite know what the speaker is on about. This track shows IDLES at their most ambiguous and referential, so much so that mentions of the unknown “Gregory” and “Janine” push the track almost into evasive territory. Sure, we want some things left in the air, but the band gives little in the way of concrete lyrics to grip on to.
The sonic aspect of ‘The Hymn’ saves the song, however. There is something incredibly atmospheric about this track, with a hint of Nine Inch Nails’ nihilism, along with Kurt Cobain’s grunge drollness, imbued into the backing rhythms.
The slow, unnerving build-up leaves listeners waiting for the typical explosion of emotion IDLES usually deliver on their tracks. However, the absence of a climax isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s a quiet eruption: a brief shout and Talbot returns to his melancholic yearning.
It’s refreshing to see IDLES explore vulnerability on ‘The Hymn'. It is perhaps an indication that Ultra Mono will see them step away from their usual clamour. It proves that expression doesn’t just have to come in the form of shouting and rage: it can also be delivered with confession and allusion, concluded with a slow, fading heartbeat.
Words by Cerys Turner.
18th July 2020.