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IDLES Break Down New Album CRAWLER Track by Track: Exclusive

Vocalist Joe Talbot and guitarist Mark Bowen dig into the band's latest release

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idles crawler new album stream track by track
IDLES Track by Track, photo by Tom Ham

    In our Track by Track feature, musicians and bands provide insight into each song on their latest album. Our latest edition comes from British post-punks IDLES, who dig into their new LP, CRAWLER.


    IDLES have today unveiled their latest full-length album, CRAWLER. Listen to the LP, and read a Track by Track breakdown from the band’s vocalist Joe Talbot and guitarist Mark Bowen.

    Coming just over a year after their last record, Ultra MonoCRAWLER spans 14 tracks that came together during the pandemic. Co-produced by Bowen and illustrious hip-hop master Kenny Beats, the effort adds elements of glam (“The Wheel”), grindcore (“Wizz”), and even anthemic marching band music (“Stockholm Syndrome”) to the Bristol outfit’s post-punk sound.

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    Prior to releasing the full album, IDLES previewed their latest set with the singles “Car Crash” and “The Beachland Ballroom”. They brought that latter track to late night TV with a performance on Kimmel earlier this month.

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    “MTT 420 RR”:
    This whole album, I tried to be more of a storyteller than I’ve ever been before, and more poetic, which I think is more honest, in an ironic way, than trying to be as blunt and down the line as possible. This motorcyclist came up on the right of me on the highway, doing 120, 130 miles an hour. He was like half a foot away from instant death. “MTT 420 RR” is the start of the story — the metaphor of the crash, and how lucky I am to still be around after years of addiction. During lockdown, I had the time to really appreciate it, document it, reflect on it and open up conversation to make people feel like they’re not alone. — Joe Talbot

    I started writing it over Christmas at my wife’s family’s house. I created loops in Ableton, but because my guitar wasn’t plugged into an amp, there’s a restraint to it that is also kind of menacing. It’s not what you’d expect from IDLES’ guitars at all. There’s this tension that never gets released. It’s like, when’s the big, crashy, boom boom IDLES time coming? In the studio, the electronic artist SOPHIE had just died, and Joe was talking about the notion of one single moment or action when everything completely changes. There’s that feeling where you’re having to surrender to something and you’re not quite comfortable with it yet, and that’s the tension I definitely wanted to weave into this song. — Mark Bowen

    “The Wheel”:
    “The Wheel” is about the cycle of alcoholism. My mom was an amazing mother and a wonderful friend, but she didn’t stop drinking until she died. I remember being about 10, on my knees crying and begging her to stop. I can call her a great mother all I want, but she didn’t do enough to be my mother after the age of 16. That was it. She had a stroke and then was under my care as a boy, really. That was the moment that came to my head when listening to this song over and over again, because it has that dark, cold, motorik kind of thing that alcoholism is. I wouldn’t have been able to write it before. I was too angry. — J.T.

    We always knew “The Wheel” was coming after “MTT 420 RR.” We knew there would be this smack in the face. We wanted to write a glam rock song, but inevitably we made it really, really heavy. I thought it was important to include a lot of the songs that deal directly with trauma and the immediate reactive responses to trauma in the first half. Then, you have the more head-on stuff later — the realization and the dealing with it. This song, the lyrical content about trauma is really harrowing. It’s so heavy and hyper-realistic that it meant the music got more heavy and obtuse. Even now, the chorus is just one note. It’s such an anti-chorus — Joe’s singing “Can I get a Hallelujah?” and not getting one back. — M.B.

    “When the Lights Come On”:
    I was a hip-hop DJ for years at a club in Bristol. Later on, I was still into drugs and alcohol but I was starting to feel old. I’d look up and be like, I don’t recognize anyone anymore. There are cold moments where the lights do actually come on in the club and you just suddenly start realizing you’re the last one left in your circle. It’s that feeling that maybe you’ve out-stayed your welcome. I was going to parties with a bunch of uni students who were like 10 years younger than me. Looking back on it, that’s kind of lame — like Frank the Tank from “Old School” or something.

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    It’s that feeling of four in the morning, and you want to keep going, and you’re searching for the after parties, even though it never, ever gets more fun. It’s got that sense of fun, but it’s also not, at all. That song is directly influenced by late ’70s and early ‘80s post-punk. It kind of sounds like Bauhaus. That was the vibe from start to finish. — M.B.

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