2020 has been a crazy year thus far, and IDLES may well be the best band to provide a running commentary. Their 2018 album Joy As An Act of Resistance was the punk album of that year, placing #3 in our top 20, and now more prescient than ever with its calls for racial equality and togetherness. The band have plenty more to come, with single Grounds being the latest teaser for their upcoming LP Ultra Mono, set to be released September 25. If this track is any indication, the record should be an interesting ride.
Previous single Mr Motivator was a raw slab of IDLES punk that won many admirers but may have had you thinking the band’s sound had hit cruise control. Grounds alleviates these concerns. The beat is stop-start, opening with an off-putting synth riff (surely an IDLES first) and then introducing an evil ascending guitar riff that sounds more industrial than punk. There may be some influence at play, with the band name-checking legendary Nick Cave guitarist Warren Ellis as having guested on the track, and Kenny Beats on production duties (FKA Twigs, Denzel Curry).
Frontman Joe Talbot is on point as usual with a sterling vocal. The lyrics rally against racism (with the lyric “black is beautiful” a prescient one in current times), but they look inward as much as outward. They play like a mantra, re-affirming our protagonist’s strength in the face of the outside world. Talbot himself echoed those thoughts, saying, “We wanted to write a song that embodied self-belief, and gave us self-belief – a counterpunch to all the doubt we build up from all the noise we so easily let in.”
Recommended listening, of course.