Steve Lemacq

IDLES - Joy as an Act of Resistance

“The masses against the classes / I'm tired of giving a reason / When we're the only thing left to believe in”

Manic Street Preachers, Masses Against The Classes, UK No.1 19/01/00

Where has rock n roll gone? There are no more outsiders. On and on the pathetic and lazy journalism about bands goes of late. That said, it has felt an age since an intelligent, rebellious working class band have infiltrated the very people saying they don't exist.

Bristol's IDLES look set to do just this. Front man Joe Talbot recently appeared on ITV's News at 10 talking about his mental health and his charity work for the Samaritans. Cue the arsehole generation shouting “snowflake” at their televisions. Lush indie melodies and synths with East London fashion parades IDLES are not.

They are violent, acerbically witty and pure. In 'Danny Nedelko' and 'Great' they have found a Martin Amis ability to surmise the times. The Brexit inspired songs stick two fingers up to those tearing down the notion of togetherness. On 'Scum', they find the venomous humour of John Niven to portray a guttural upbringing. How refreshing to hear it in this light, instead of Melanie Phillips bemoaning the poor buying a pack of fags.

Both songs, at crucial moments, find some magic melodies to cut through the ferocious punk and soul.

There is however, more to this album than just great punk rock and viscous motorik. Songwriter Joe Talbot, tragically lost his daughter during childbirth last year. It has caused him to examine himself and masculinity at length. 'Samaritans' dissects Britain's constant male suppression and, with the line “this is why you never see your father cry”, combines the sloganeering of Strummer and the intellect of Bobby Gillespie and Luke Haines. For those raised by children of WW2 survivors, that solemn, say nothing approach to feelings will appear all too familiar. It's time for change.

If this subject matter wasn't enough to wrestle with, Talbot tackles his grief on 'June'. Find the language to depict Talbot's loss is futile. This is, unquestionably one of the most shattering songs you will ever hear. The bravery on display, from everyone in the band to convey the worst imaginable loss, is heroic. Music's power, so often is about creating communities for individuals to belong to, that is, in essence the human condition. With 'June', we only hope fellow sufferers can find solace here and rebuild their lives.

This album is a moment. A bona fide flag in the ground. The working classes as a force for good, as heroes on our TV screens and airwaves is back.

“Hello it's us again”

Manic Street Preachers, Masses Against The Classes, UK No.1 19/01/00




Theatre Royal - ...And Then It Fell Out Of My Head

The Rochester outfit are back with their fourth album 'And Then it Fell Out Of My Head'. They have been a secret for far too long, but, with backing from Steve Lemacq, this record seems set to spread their message far and wide.

Despite their lack of coverage, their confidence has certainly not diminished. It is an album packed with potential singles (if only people bought them). So, its only fitting they lead off with former single 'Port Bou'. It bristles with their archetypal Mersey-pysche sound and has the feel of a beloved underdog.

'Locked Together On The Lines' recalls the tale of frontman Oliver's Nan finding a dead sailor and prostitute at Chatham's war memorial, The Great Lines. Every facet oozes brilliance. Vocally, the human touch shines through on what is a tragedy. Sonically, the guitars blend the breeziness and haziness of The La's with the pop instincts of The Bluetones.

The real star though, are the lyrics. They build the intrigue immediately with brilliant opening ‘did he woo her / did pay her’. Prostitutes are so often viewed as second class citizens which, is deftly portrayed here with anonymity:

‘a sailor lay with a stranger now frozen in time’

This albums real success lies with 'Standing In The Land'. The bravery alone to talk about fear and confusion over refugees should be applauded. The opening line will stop all in its wake:

“it seems clear to me / how can we be free/ when there is dying in the sea / Because of you and me”

Usually, social comment is reserved for political angst or sub-cultures in full flow. This goes one further and relays an actual conversation with the accessibility of Gogglebox. It's laced with anguish, guilt and regret, it is a triumph of inputting pure feeling into a song not seen since Primal Scream's 'Damaged'.

At times, on 'Teardrop' and 'Will Someone Please Write Me A Song', your left with a sense that their magic has waned somewhat. Upon further reflection, it's a testament to how many potential singles they have. Few can deny the brilliance of the harmonica on 'What Has Become of Me' ,witty lyrics and the dejected isolation projected in its closing moments.

Theatre Royal may not be new, but with this album, they have certainly arrived.

The album is out now. Find it on their Bandcamp page here: