Monday, December 05, 2005
there's glory in your story

With the release of Warnings/Promises, Idlewild have now fulfilled their contract with Parlophone/EMI, and have decided to part ways with the label. Singer, Roddy Woomble, put it this way on the band's website: "...it feels like the end of a chapter, or a bit like leaving school." So, I thought it might be a good time to take a look back at one of my favourite bands (yeah, I know their last album was kinda dodgy - I still love them).

The Early Singles and Captain
Idlewild formed in '95, but didn't release their first single until two years later. "Queen Of The Troubled Teens" was followed quickly with "Chandelier" in 1997; both songs (and the accompanying bsides) feature Roddy yelping/singing over buzzsaw guitar, fuzzy bass, and a "1-2, 1-2" drum beat. Captain followed the next year and was more of the same. I remember reading a British music mag at the end of 2000 (the year their third full length was released) that commented on early Idlewild, summing up with something to the effect of, "they're kind of like a yappy dog... good in small doses." Harsh, but perhaps a fair assessment, as I'm sure my affection for the noisy arrangements of their early songs may put me in the minority. Don't let that put you off though. There are some quality tunes buried deep in the annals of the band's back catalogue. "Faster" is probably my favourite of the bunch. The b-side of "Queen Of The Troubled Teens" single, it's a minute and fifty seconds of compressed postpunk explosion.

download: Idlewild - Faster

Hope Is Important
The band's first full-length ushered in a little more structure. Roddy sang a bit more, and loud and noisy bits were used to far better effect. That being said, "I'm Happy To Be Here Tonight," with its acoustic guitar and soft melody, seemed to stick out next to the rest of the louder material (while still being great in and of itself). Still though, the material on Hope Is Important displayed big steps forward. Arrangements were more complex, there were ideas forming that pointed to something big, and quite a few of the numbers are stunners, especially live. "When I Argue I See Shapes," with its multitracked, competing vocal lines, and quiet/loud/quiet/loud dynamic, isn't my favourite track on the record, but seems to sum up what Idlewild sounded like around this time.

download: Idlewild - When I Argue I See Shapes

100 Broken Windows
This is one of my favourite records ever, and I'm going to say, that without a doubt, this is Idlewild's finest record. There's a balance between quiet moments and loud moments, the music is focused, minimal, but rich, and Roddy's voice shows a lot of improvement over the first couple of releases. The songs are diverse, but at the same time, the album is cohesive. It stands up as a whole, but there are a wide variety of musical statements. With that, it's hard to choose one track. Even the majority of b-sides from this record deserve a listen. The release of 100 Broken Windows (on import) also marked the first time that the band graced our fair city. They played the long since departed Starfish Room (RIP), on a coheadlining tour with Brassy in early 2001, and the rooms tiny stage could barely contain the band. I still remember being blown away by guitarist Rod Jones' manic pogoing and Roddy dragging his mic stand and singing in the crowd for the entire set, as much as I was by the strength of the songs (most of which I hadn't heard at that point).

If "When I Argue..." sums up Hope Is Important era Idlewild for me, "Actually, It's Darkness" sums up the band. It's got everything I love about them: the subtle harmonies, the sort of obtuse lyrics that almost seem awkward in the verse, the near complete dropout in the piano led bridge, and that soaring chorus.

download: Idlewild - Actually, It's Darkness

The Remote Part
This is where it started to slip a bit for me. Don't get me wrong... "You Held The World In Your Arms" was great, and "American English" was the "slow one" that they seemed to be reaching for with "I'm Happy To Be Here Tonight" but never quite managed. That being said, with The Remote Part seemed to have shed that last bit of rough edge that they were holding onto. There were still some "rockers," but they didn't seem that have that unrestrained energy of older tracks. "Stay The Same" has always been my favourite track off of this record. What I said about unrestrained energy two sentences ago... yeah, forget that for this one.

download: Idlewild - Stay The Same

Warnings/Promises
Alright... if you got through all of that sloppy writing, you've made it to the end of the line. I had really high hopes for this record. Sure, like I said, The Remote Part wasn't as good as 100 Broken Windows, but I figured they'd just bounce back a bit. Warnings/Promises was written entirely on acoustic instruments, which may explain why it's even more laidback than its predecessor. I don't think that's what makes it weaker neccessarily, but with a band like Idlewild, I don't think it helped. My disappointment with this record speaks less to its quality, in and of itself, and more to the high regard that I hold the rest of bands catalogue, but after buying it for inflated import price, it was definitely disappointment, none the less. "I Understand It" is one of the few tracks that, in my mind, stand up to the rest of the bands' work.

download: Idlewild - I Understand It

Regardless of what quality their future material falls under, I will always see this band live if they come to town, and suggest that you do the same.

I was going to finish this days ago... but I'm a bad blogger.

now playing: Idlewild - Let Me Sleep (Next To The Mirror)

2 Comments:

another vote for 100 Broken Windows being their finest hour... so far.

By Anonymous frank, at 11:40 a.m.  

I agree with as well. 100 Broken Windows is such a great record. And you only mentioned it once, but I think Roddy is a damn good lyricist as well.

By Anonymous Sean, at 2:34 p.m.  

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