Idlewild - Advance: Post-Electric Blues

Darren Walker 16/06/2009

Rating: 4.5/5

In 2002 Idlewild reluctantly stared success in the face, squaring up like Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, flexing their 24 inch pythons and strutting around the ring, pretending to be superstars. They had just released The Remote Part, an album that surprised critics, fans, perhaps even themselves and found them playing in venues much bigger than they were used to. Roddy acted as frontman accordingly, touching the hands of fans in the front rows, scanning the venues and making eye contact with their newly-enlarged crowd, but it was clear that this was never something they felt comfortable with and after a bout of fisticuffs and the departure of bassist Bob Fairfoull they went away and recorded Warnings/Promises. Like its predecessor, the album surprised both critics and fans, this time because the energy and electricity of The Remote Part had been replaced with a collection of comparatively tame folk songs - still retaining the pop-sensibilities of their earlier records - but the sudden reduction in volume lost them a lot of support. Poor chart positions left them without a label and in need of something to bring back the departed fans. Make Another World, for a short while, was that record. On the surface it was a return to form rock album, but on repeated listens it became apparent that we had been duped, for beneath the overdriven guitars and thumping drums was an unprecedented lack of melody and many who previously thought it fantastic now regard it as one of the band's worst.

The five-piece spent the last year re-learning and re-visiting their entire back catalogue from the frantic, instrument thrashing beginnings of Captain through to this, their latest effort Post-Electric Blues via the medium of the now fashionable album shows - a brave move considering no-one had heard the 11 new songs. The record, complete with tantalising extras, was only available to pre-order directly from the band, choosing to avoid record label complications (for now at least), offering a rare first listen to fans and after a two month delay it started appearing through letterboxes at the end of this week.

The record opens with the Teenage Fanclub inspired Younger Than America and successfully sets the mood; sporting a summery chorus, unexpected key change and some gorgeous backing vocals from Heidi Talbot. Readers & Writers and City Hall follow and are the pop songs Idlewild have been threatening to write for some time, the former featuring xylophone, brass(!!) and a rhythm that, despite your best efforts, will have you bouncing along the street in the baking sun, grinning uncontrollably. The latter is easily the strongest song on the album, (record review cliché alert!) an absolute treat of a pop-gem reminiscent of Satan Polaroid-all-grown-up. Other highlights include the 'Foolish'-era Superchunk riffing of Circles in Stars, To Be Forgotten's air-punching chorus and the presumably self-referential Post-Electric with the line 'I'm bored for the first time / returning to tried and tested methods / keep it modern and alive'. The album officially closes with the tender Take Me Back in Time but fans are treated to bonus track No Wiser, a song which, like most of Post-Electric Blues, could easily be released as a single.

While the album may not impress fans who abandoned them after The Remote Part, it is almost certainly their best collection of songs since then and if it's what they want, could also be the album to see them return to the larger stages they left behind.

1. Younger Than America
2. Readers & Writers
3. City Hall
4. (The Night Will) Bring you Back to Life
5. Dreams of Nothing
6. Take Me Back to the Islands
7. Post-Electric
8. All Over the Town
9. To Be Forgotten
10. Circles in Stars
11. Take Me Back in Time
12. No Wiser