A gorgeous memoir of the Golden Age of IDLES
Jessie Atkinson
11:00 29th November 2019

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No live album could capture the beautiful agony of going to an IDLES show; nothing as one-dimensional as a record could do the experience justice. The Bristol punks' new live album A Beautiful Thing: Live at Le Bataclan does, however bottle an essence of it. Though diluted, the new release is a lovely celebration of IDLES' first two albums, and a rough approximation of how it feels to see them live.

From the first ominous notes of 'Colossus' through to the final, hopeful shrieks of 'Rottweiler', IDLES bark and shred their way through an eighty-minute set of their best songs. It's an archetypal setlist featuring top tier hits 'Mother', 'Divide & Conquer', 'Samaritans', 'Gram Rock' and fifteen more. 

More than that, the live album features interludes consisting of Joe Talbot's political stage patter - a hugely important element to seeing IDLES live, and key anatomy to the band, though perhaps not immediately obvious to a casual listener. 

Live, and translated well on A Beautiful Thing, the leftism of IDLES becomes clear, with sentiments like "I am a feminist" ringing out at the closing and opening of several tracks. "Your country is run by psychopaths," Talbot tells the French crowd by way of introducing 'Gram Rock'. To welcome 'Rottweiler', Talbot shouts "this is an anti-facsist song". It's good to hear these assessments on record so that they can be played and replayed, forever immortalised as part of the IDLES phenomenon. "Long live the open-minded" Bowen calls over and over as the album closes.

It's interesting that IDLES chose to finish their tour, and to record this album, at Paris' Le Bataclan - scene, of course, of the terrorist attack that left over a hundred people dead in 2015. There's a sense that the band want to fill the space with their love, a campaign that translates well on a record that brings the loud defiance of their LPs together with the insistent love of their live shows. 

On 'Exeter', the microphone is passed through the crowd, a new person singing "No one's in the bar for a bar fight" on each round of the bludgeoning riff. It's a moment when the listener is clued in to what might be happening in Le Bataclan. It's easy to imagine the roiling madness of the mosh pit that we can't see and the unusual togetherness of it all. 

Few other places on A Beautiful Thing evidence the unrivaled mosh pit experience that is an IDLES gig. That's not to say that this live album isn't a good approximation of how it sounds to be at an IDLES show, but it certainly doesn't - and couldn't - capture what it feels like to be there. For fans and collectors, A Beautiful Thing is a gorgeous memoir of the Golden Age of IDLES. But for those who haven't been to a live show, it is no stand-in.

A Beautiful Thing: Live at Le Bataclan is released on 6 December 2019 via Partisan Records. 

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