IDLES released their version of Gang of Four’s “Damaged Goods”, and wow! what a fierce tribute it is. While it sounds close to the original, which isn’t surprising considering Gang of Four are an inspiration to every member of the band — they even admit that IDLES wouldn’t exist without them — the distinct sound couldn’t be anyone else but IDLES.
And that sound is blooming. Ultra Mono was a big change in style for the band, with tracks such as “Grounds” dabbling with hip-hop and “Reigns” giving Nine Inch Nails a run for their money when it comes to industrial anthems. But I noticed something new recently. Joe Talbot has always been an incredible frontman, but there has been a shift in his spirit of late. He’s always going to hold the world to account for their actions, and no doubt he will always write brutally honest songs that will inspire and bring unity and community to the masses, but there’s something else. It seems like he is healing.
IDLES’ performance at Worthy Farm, Glastonbury, was truly out of this world, and it was here that I really noticed just how brightly their star is shining. I felt myself getting a little choked up watching them, this band I have loved for so long now. They look great; healthy, happy and relaxed. They sound even better; tight, focused, confident and having fun. Tina from Sœur, who stepped in for rhythm guitarist, Leeeeeee, who had an elbow injury, looked right at home in the band too. Can we keep her? Without losing Lee in the process, of course.
Joe is at Freddy Mercury status as a frontman now, in my eyes. His singing voice has dramatically improved, and I hope that means that album four will showcase what he can do melodically. “Damaged Goods” is a clear indication of what the band can do in that style and have done in the past on tracks like “Romantic Gestures” (a.k.a. the greatest song of all time) from the Meat EP. It’s not often that IDLES sing about romantic relationships, and yes, “Damaged Goods” is about sexual politics with “a sexual/political double entendre providing the crux of the song’s message. Nevertheless, hearing Joe sing, “Sometimes I’m thinking that I love you /But I know it’s only lust /Your kiss so sweet/ Your sweat so sour” is sexy AF. More of this on album four, please!
While we don’t know when album four will arrive, we do know that the boys have been working hard in the studio. “Damaged Goods” is their second cover this year already, with their version of Sharon Van Etten’s “Peace Signs” released a few months ago to celebrate the 10th anniversary of her Epic album release.
“Damaged Goods” was produced by Kenny Beats who worked with IDLES on Ultra Mono, and is the second single to be taken from The Problem of Leisure: A Celebration of Andy Gill and Gang of Four, following on from the Serj Tankian/Tom Morello collaboration on “Naturals Not In It”, which was released in January. The album, set for release on June 4, also features Gang Of Four covers recorded by Helmet, Killing Joke, Gary Numan and Red Hot Chili Peppers duo Flea and John Frusciante. It is a tribute album to the band’s late guitarist Andy Gill, who passed away in February 2020, possibly after contracting COVID-19.
IDLES will play two UK shows for the same date in September, performing an afternoon show at the Wide Awake festival at London’s Brockwell Park on September 3, before headlining at IDLES On The Downs in their hometown of Bristol that same evening. Tickets for the Wide Awake festival, which also features The Murder Capital, Goat Girl, Shame, Black Midi, Dream Wife and more, are on sale now. Supporting acts for the Down’s all-dayer have not yet been announced, but you can get tickets for what will undoubtedly be a storming event here too.