Idlewild‘s Post-Electric Blues is a sweeping, large-scale record, packed with big, fist-pumping barnburners that would sound at home on either a large arena stage or in a raucous roadhouse. On their sixth full-length studio album they’ve channeled Bruce Springsteen‘s E Street wall of sound, and made it into something distinctly original.
The album opens with Younger Than America, an explosive look at Idlewild’s new frontier. Roddy Woomble croons, “Someday we’ll find heaven” over Colin Newton’s fantastically frantic Max Weinberg-esque driving drums. The whole band is on full tilt here, opening the album with a bang, complete with key-changing la-la-la’s, to which one can barely restrain the urge to pump one’s fist in the air.
The album’s first single, Readers & Writers, is reminiscent of The Rising-era Springsteen with perhaps a touch of influence from those dancier Scots, Franz Ferdinand. Again, Newton’s drums keep things rollicking as Woomble advises, “You are bigger than the monuments you have.” When the horns come in midway through, this one becomes an all out rave-up, generating a sort of summer-time swoon that reminds one of spending days out of doors and nights at the pub.
The album continues in this vein as Idlewild tears through one epic tune after another, and mostly the energy remains high throughout, continuing to evoke the feel of a large-scale live show.
There are a few beautifully low-key pauses, as with the call-and-response, laid back acoustic gallop of (The Night Will) Bring You Back To Life, in which Woomble laments, “You take my life away” as if he really means it. Here, Rod Jones’s keyboards accent the choruses in tinkling perfection. Also lovely is the acoustic crawler, Take Me Back To The Islands with its lilting fiddle counterpoint and the way Woomble mournfully sings, “In between your smiles/ there’s a clue whether to scream or be silent.”
But it’s obvious that Idlewild feel most comfortable wrapped in a wall of sound, and here the loud tracks release a sense of energy that seems almost out of place in today’s musical landscape. At times, the sounds evoke ’90s R.E.M. and Gin Blossoms (as on the hectic Dreams Of Nothing), and at others, the bar room swagger of early Rod Stewart (for example, the sweeping closing measures of Take Me Back In Time), but the E Street influence is present throughout.
This disconnectedness with the twitchy, awkward modern musical landscape is by no means a bad thing. On the title track, Woomble sings, “We’ve gone post-electric/ I’ve written down the concept/ It’s casual to deny/ I’m bored for the first time,” over an angular guitar hook and a bygone drum and bass groove. There’s a discontented quality to Woomble’s voice that hints at the band’s designs on creating something less boring. The album is a testament to their success. Later, he warns to “keep it modern and alive,” with perhaps a bit of irony.
There’s something to be said for the band’s deployment strategy for this new album. In an effort to break free of the constraints of the conventional record distribution model, thy released the album to 3,000 fans in June through the Idlewild website, unleashing the full CD album months later through Cooking Vinyl.
As those fans will have already discovered, Post-Electric Blues is an excellent album, looking back without nostalgia, and forward thinking in its execution. Its mood and intent is summed up in nicely in the slow-burning acoustic closer, Take Me Back In Time, in which Woomble sings, “I won’t try to live side by side/ No one can take me back in time” with heartfelt vigour.
Idlewild prove that time travel is not only possible but necessary, both into the past and into the not-so-distant future on this rowdy, daring and jubilant new record.