Don’t Go Gentle: IDLES Rage Against The Dying of The Light
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. — Dylan Thomas, 1951
Swansea born poet, Dylan Thomas, was said to have been inspired to write his famous poem, “Do not go gentle into that good night“, by the deterioration of his father’s health. David John Thomas had read Shakespeare to his son every night. He was a grammar teacher and dreamed of being a poet. While he never realised his dream, his son Dylan became a rare example of a wordsmith who actually found fame and fortune while he was still alive.
Dylan Thomas speaks of death as inevitable, which of course it is for everyone, but how you face your last moments, should be with rage and fire. But none of us know when our last moments will be, until well, the last moment. So what Thomas is really saying here is, seize the day, fight for your dreams, live every day like it’s your last and don’t die regretting that you didn’t at least try to make a difference. Extremely apt advice for everyone on the planet right now. The world feels like it’s getting very dark, very fast—as if it is facing its death. But in the wake of George Floyd‘s despicable murder, there is a glimmer of hope that people are now angry enough to step up against white supremacy, racism and oppression and join hands with their brothers and sisters from all over the world.
It’s easy to see why then that Don’t Go Gentle is the name of the new documentary film about IDLES which was released digitally on 1 June. The poem sums up the spirit of the band better than anything else. IDLES frontman Joe Talbot is a modern-day poet, and like Dylan Thomas, was also born in Wales. His lyrics which are poignant, political, passionate and darkly comical. Each member of the band, (Joe, Adam ‘Dev’ Devonshire, Mark ‘ Bobo’ Bowen, Lee(eee) Kiernan and Jon Beavis) has the same art with the letters DGG tattooed on their bodies—Thomas’s words clearly struck a chord. Each of them have fought hard to be where they are today—how their feet are still on the ground is anyone’s guess (and Leeeee has been known to levitate), but I suppose that if one of your messages calls for an end to toxic masculinity and to be truthful to yourself, it’s easy to reflect, stay humble and be eternally grateful for the opportunities you have seized.
The documentary follows IDLES from their beginnings as a far tamer, shirt-wearing and pretty generic indie band, to the leaders of the punk/post-punk scene in Britain today. And they have only just gotten started. Ok, that’s not true, they formed in Bristol in 2009, so it took eight long years before Brutalism was released and the band were flung into the spotlight. But when it happened, it happened at precisely the right time. It was an album with such pertinency to the fractured Britain of 2017 that birthed it, that the band’s potent individuality and honesty simply couldn’t be ignored.
That honesty extends into the film as each member is interviewed. Both Joe and Dev lost their mothers around the time that Brutalism was released and their grief clearly took a massive toll on them both in different ways. It is also heartbreaking to hear old footage of Joe talking about becoming a father soon, knowing that shortly afterwards he and his partner would face another painful loss when their daughter, Agatha, was stillborn. Lee arrived in the band a year after getting sober, replacing guitarist Andy Stewart (who also produced the documentary) who left the band due to anxiety-related issues. Hearing them all talk so openly about where they feel they failed, for example not being there to support their partner; drinking too much and being challenging to be around and so on, genuinely inspires you to face up to your own struggles, talk about them openly with your loved ones and grow from your mistakes. Never have regrets.
Lee’s arrival changed the sound of the band entirely and helped them find their true identity, making them who they are today. They toured tirelessly and were invited to support the Foo Fighters, and then The Maccabees final gig at Alexandra Palace. This saw their message spread even further, leading to them signing with the Brooklyn and London independent Partisan Records. IDLES second album, Joy As An Act Of Resistance, released in August 2018, saw them become leaders in a movement of new bands tearing down outdated perceptions of masculinity and bucking the trend of style over substance. Songs from Joy were boisterous indictments of sexism, racism, and the polarisation of Britain in the wake of Brexit, nationalism and toxic masculinity. The record feels incredibly personal and at other times universal, wearing both its heart—and an active mind—on its sleeve.
But the IDLES journey does not solely belong to the band. I have said it (a lot) before, and I will say it again, that the IDLES fan community, the AF GANG, is the most wholesome place on the internet. Run by Lindsay Melbourne (Boss)—who was also Assistant Producer and Photographer on Don’t Go Gentle, the kind and graceful Louise Hughes (Mum), and the boyishly good looking Brian Mimpress (who has recently interviewed the band from his Goth Kitchen live on YouTube), the film shows how the community began with three strangers mutual love for the band. They learned quickly that IDLES fans—inspired by the bands’ honesty—tended to be very open about their problems and needed somewhere safe to talk about them. They created the Facebook group which now has over 26000 members and is constantly busy. They really are an avalanche of support, advice and kindness—all given without judgment or intolerance. IDLES and their fans are a true phenomenon.
IDLES new single, “Mr Motivator” is out now; its video features the band and members of the AF GANG exercising/dancing/flailing their arms about during these long weeks of Lockdown. The band go hand in hand with their fans through everything—the love is mutual, and it shows. Album number 3 is due out this Summer, but no date or title has been announced yet. I am so eager to hear what the biggest boy band from Bristol since Bananarama have to say next. Like I said earlier, it feels like this is just the beginning for IDLES—a storm is brewing. The kind of positive storm people need right now to feel unified, no matter how young or old they are. Their relentless sound and lyrics bring energy, peace and rejuvenation to even the most tired in society. Those that have been kicked down so many times it’s a genuine struggle to get back up can and do with support from their friends at the AF GANG who encourage them to Keep F**king Going (KFG). It’s a beautiful thing.
IDLES have also released a new T-Shirt featuring the “No one is an island” slogan, from which all proceeds will go to the Black Lives Matter civil rights organisation. If there was ever a time to come together as a community it is now, and IDLES and the AF GANG are exactly what the doctor ordered. Long Live The Open-Minded.
IDLES’ Don’t Go Gentle documentary will be available to watch for two weeks from 1 June exclusively at afgang.co.uk. All Is Love.