Have IDLES made a rare misstep with new song Model Village?

{This is not the start of a ‘backlash’ – a return to the ‘Build ‘Em Up / Knock ‘Em Down’ days of the 1970’s UK music press. We do not do that at Louder Than War…. }

With the release of their third album imminent, have IDLES misjudged things with their new song Model Village, replacing unity with petty tribalism? Asks Nathan Whittle, risking the wrath of the AF Gang. 

It seemed like the band could almost do no wrong for some. IDLES have risen up over the last eight years to a status that the grassroots fans that supported them may have never thought possible. After the release of their last album, Joy As An Act Of Resistence, the band stood at a precipice. They had become a band that, from their punk roots, had been nominated for an Ivor Novella award and heralded here as a band who could forge an inspirational “change in the way young people think about, life, society and ‘politics’ on a personal and local level.” High praise, and deserved.

Whatever your thoughts on the band though, none other in recent years have hit the commercial mark as they have while at the same time casting a critical eye over such topics as toxic masculinity, immigration, Brexit, and the rifts sown through society by the elites over the last decade. IDLES have always seemed like a band that have put their hearts, souls, and guttural screams into expressions of unity. Hell, they even spelt it out for all to hear on the fantastic Danny Nedelko.

We were with them all the way. So what gives with new song, Model Village? For the record, the tune is great and it’s a step up for them that, retaining much of the sound that made them, will push them to still bigger audiences and the production is spot on. But it’s the lyrics.

At a time when society is being shafted from above left, right and centre, the band have seemingly traded the idea of unity for cheap tribalism. So, let’s break it down a bit.

“You gotta laugh as the curtain twitches. And the villagers bury their riches.”

There’s no doubt that some of the richest parts of the country are tucked away villages like Virginia Water in Surrey with 1.5m pound price tags on houses, but why paint in broad strokes and sweep up villages like Jaywick, one of the 10 most deprived wards in the country, one where a local councillor described the housing situation as state-subsidised squalor? Doesn’t smack of the “Model car, model wife, model village” that the band sing about.

On Joy’s I’m Scum, the band retook the snowflake insult aimed at those who take cheap potshots at the Left. But what do we get on the new song? The band trading back with a cheap “Gammon” potshot. We may one day become an avalanche, but not by hitting out at those who have different views to ours when the aim needs to go higher to burst the myths that have been sown deep into the conscious of many by a predominantly right-wing reactionary press.

And finally, there are the assertions that racism and homophobia are rife within villages. Are we to believe that nowadays our urban centres are an example of tollerance and acceptance? Again, treating the topic in such a shallow way glosses over the whole debate.

Boris Johnson is seeking to make the removal of asylum seekers from the UK easier while both Sky News and the BBC have been accused of voyeuristic treatment of those reaching the end of a perilous journey to safety. At the start of the year, the Migration Observatory found that 44% of the UK population were in favour of more controls on immigration. Considering less than 17% of the population of England live in rural areas, why would the band take easy aim at stereotype and ignore the wider issue of why racism and homophobia is on the rise. In London over the last five years, homophobic hate crime has increased by 55%, but hey, look at the villagers with their pitchforks!

On Model Village, IDLES have gone for the simple shot. After the Brexit referendum, even among Leave-voters, a higher percentage of people recognised that immigration had a positive impact on the economy. We’re talking about nuanced opinions and ideas that the band have taken down to caricature level. Oh yeah, almost forgot about the plethora of “nine-fingered boys in the village.” What’s the fixation here? Symbrachydactyl caused by inbreeding?

On the song, singer Joe Talbot has said: “I hated growing up in a city that was really a town that was really a fishbowl. I left as soon as I could, only to realize the fishbowl didn’t exist…just the fish, and they’re everywhere.”

His intention may have been to cast this critical eye over society as a whole, but he might have missed the mark on this one. The elites and their puppet masters are currently engaged in an all-out class war in Britain. The band would do well to keep their sights better trained on the enemy.


All words by Nathan Whittle. Find his Louder Than War archive here.

This is a no-agenda, personal opinion – shared by at least one other LTW writer and champion of the band, but not necessarily with others at Louder Than War. (NW)

Previous articleVarious Artists – Reggae Power – album review
Next articleBarringtone: Bonanza Plan – album review
Nathan has been writing for Louder Than War since 2012. Before that, he wrote for Now living in Spain, he also writes for the Spanish magazine Ruta 66.


  1. Joe’s not infallible but his intentions are genuine. Having grown up in these small towns I can vouch for his accuracy. I don’t think by pointing the finger at small town mentality hes saying that cities are perfect.

    Understanding the way the album was written may explain the rather black and white viewpoints at times.

    One things for sure they make you think and too many people need to stop reading the scum and take a long hard look at where this country is headed …

  2. I think you’re missing the point Nathan, England is the Model Village in the song, and I think the lyrics perfectly encapsulate where England is as a society at this precise moment in time. Sure, there’s a lot of good out there but let’s be honest, no matter how bad things get, the current government maintain a healthy lead in the polls, because there’s a particular mindset to England that seems both endemic and intractable.

    • spot on.
      the whole premise of the article above is that the word ‘village’ is reductive. But clearly the context of it meaning the country we live in makes this a track I cant wait to see a bunch of gammon Rule Britannia wankers singing along to like ‘Mother’ and completely missing the fucking point.

    • Yup, spot on. What a shame it is for a political band to point out what a gammon ridden shithole Britain is becoming. Cheap tribalism? Try accurate socio-political insight.

  3. Have to agree that it might oversimplify to portray all small towns (or villages) being small minded – they are clearly not – and the rural, or deprived former working class villages are often more welcoming than the gritty urban bohemian multicultural centres we live in – great to drive debate, but let’s not all fall into the trap of believing that it’s always such a binary all good or all bad world we live in – seeking understanding is the first step to building understanding which leads to peace and love.
    As my 12 year old daughter is just reading animal farm we need to remind ourselves that the oppressed too often in history become the oppressor – though I prefer the Who’s here’s the new boss, same as the old boss refrain.

  4. Errr oooops! This is awkward.
    Try asking the band what the song is actually about. I assume you have done that, right? What? You haven’t? Oh, Nathan! Such a silly sausage.

  5. The author misses the point and is taking artful lyricism way too literally. It seems to me to be a commentary on larger social issues and not writing about specific British villages. As as American I hear it as indictment on how fucked up Merika is right now.

  6. The 9 fingered boys have had industrial accidents. Nowt to do with inbreeding. I’m originally from Gloucester, England and trust me when I say this song is spot on about “Little England” with its lyrics and could have been written for my home town.

  7. Louder than War, nobody cares what you think. Nathan, nobody cares what you write. Worst writers and bums in the business

    • Terry Paine:
      Happy to indulge your opinion of us LTW writers as “the worst in the business”, but I can assure you that our “bums” are universally taut and easy on the eye, due to John Robb’s intense lockdown workouts, which we all follow religiously.
      But thanks for taking an interest anyway!

  8. Couldn’t agree less. The song perfectly sums up the pervading attitude in large parts of the country. The hideous exceptionalism that has fed Brexit. Doesn’t matter whether it comes from a northern mining village or a Surrey commuter belt village the attitude is there and it is poisonous. Why would you praise the band for songs celebrating diversity and then have a pop at them for criticising a large part of our society for wallowing in a pathetic, nationalistic, non-existent exceptionalism. It’s not about unity it’s about shining a light on what’s right and what’s wrong.

  9. I have a feeling you come from or live in a village and this has touched a Get over it, it’s a song and you are taking the lyrics to literally.

    • I’m not sure that Model Village is any worse than any of Idles’ previous singles – pretty much par-for-the-course, condescending finger-pointing from this troupe of hapless hipsters.

      • I’d have to say Mr. Gus here nailed it on the head right there.

        I don’t see these bussies joining in on a shit stomping of a dirty politician if given a chance. An act of rebellion isn’t started with cowardice. If they combine “toxic masculinity” with “fuck the system” it gives them a cool out to take on why they don’t physically fight back at any of these political rallies. (Fighting is for savages, we are gonna sing about it and tell you that you should be angry….. but not to do anything about it because violence is booorish)

        Who’s the toff after all, Mr Talbot?

  10. I find this article really odd, because I can see exactly what sort of place/people this song is referring to.
    I live in suburbia, we have people described in this song all around us.
    Relatives live in a village, though it’s near massive industrial plants. But they are very well represented in this song.
    Friends live in a town in severe decline due to job losses, but they are surrounded by people who think exactly as described in Model Village.
    So the writer of this must be burying his head in the sand (or being deliberately oblique) to think this song isn’t representative of a huge section of the community right now. Sadly.

  11. You need to look up what a ‘model village’ is. It is a custom made community built by an employer for a specific workforce. Usually of high quality they now tend to be white, upper-midfle class enclaves and rather different from rural, working-class communities.

  12. I have to disagree with you on this. The first time I heard this song I laughed because it felt hilariously relatable like when a comedian from your area talks about your area. These characters exist in these locations and it sums up a lot. There are racists, homophobes, rich snobs, psychotic hard men and the occasional rumour of someone being an inbred. It’s all real and I don’t think he was comparing it to city life either.

  13. It took you this long to start asking questions? They’re shit. A clueless yes band dragged around by a wannabe. A desperate fucking surface skimmer.

    Wake up.

  14. …. why not have a craft beer while you listen, sophisticated city drinking with a rustic, artisanal village-vibe? For my money Sleaford Mods or Slowthai or Bob Vylan are far better social commentarians than Idles, who might inspire young white middle-class people to change their attitudes to life and blah, blah, but precious few other people. We need social commentary in music and these polite punks serve up a good smart / smug serving of it, but if we are talking about mainstream discourse, then look elsewhere, this lot are preaching to the converted and the converted have their own ‘village-mentality’.

  15. Look at the lyrics to their previous work like Great and Mother, Idles don’t even make a half-hearted attempt to understand working class people, they just shoehorn in their middle-class identity politics in a pathetic attempt to appear contemporary and woke. Rock for the Momentum generation.

  16. If you think that I was not aware that the idea was being used as a metaphor for wider society, then you have not read the article closely enough as it is literally stated. However, the crux of it, for me, is that they have used a reductive and stereotypical view which, by extension, reinforces the perception of open-minded cosmopolitan urbanites talking down to ruralites through an view that they are somehow better. Hence, tribalism over unity that makes no attempt to seek an understanding behind attitudes. Of course, the song will resonate with many people who see the attitudes represented in the song, no matter where they live, and in that way it is effective in speaking to the converted. However, nowadays more than ever, both sides of the political debate are being reduced to simple insult-hurling as we shout blindly into echo chambers lined with our own confirmation bias. The song risks falling into the trap of reinforcing this.
    There is an us v them ripping the country, and many others apart, and I thought that the band could have aimed their sights higher.

    • I’ve seen this very late, but I think you make a fair point, despite the number of people who have disagreed. I’ll add that I feel the clear sense of there being two clearly-defined sides – in terms of right and left – is starting to fracture, due to situations where people might (e.g.) normally consider themselves left-leaning, but can’t accept the inclinations of some on the left to ‘cancel’ those who disagree with them. I’d love to discover any bands who reject echo chambers and try to build bridges between ‘us and them’, so if you can recommend any, I’d be grateful if you could tell me.

  17. For me the song is about a mentality rather than specific places. I see also how the song could be heard literally and be more divisive.

    I myself live in a working class village in Staffs and from my experience I’ve yet to be able to have a constructive conversation with a right leaning person since 2016.

    So Take Flight sounds pretty appealing

  18. 9 fingered is slang for a con man…. do a little research, or just google it.
    also the “village” is a metaphor not literally meaning villages. Hence “model”village
    Finally this is very similar in tone to “great from the previous album so is not in my opinion a massive departure or “ball drop”

  19. Nathan writing a ClickBait article here me thinks.
    Model article model “balanced” in the village.
    Take flight take flight

  20. Yeah Agree with Nathan. People just see big ouses in the village, and paint the occupants as toffs, when they wouldnt even be able to afford a terrace in hackney. It aint easy living in a hard up village.

  21. I agree, Nathan.
    At a time when people are being educated what words like “cakewalk” actually mean, words such as, “Gammon” may raise a snigger with the Woke people but it isn’t helpful, it’s cheap diviseness, aimed at getting your track played on BBC Radio 6.
    Idles are behind the curve on this issue,some of their output is no more likely to help to bring rapprochement between factions of our fractured society than a gang of skinheads chanting the “N” word.

  22. Its nothing like chanting the N word you idiot. The song is a reflection on many parts of England and deservedly warrants poking at. Great song great meaning and reflection.

    If you have a problem with it you are part of the problem.

  23. I’m perhaps untypical in that I grew up suburbia just outside the city, lived in the inner city for a decade, and now live in ‘the village’ (allbeit in one of the poorer regions of the UK) for reasons of circumstance rather than lifestyle choice. I recognise many of these lyrics! yet at the same time I can definitely say there is a good and bad everywhere I experienced as much of the behaviour and attitudes scorned in this track in the inner cities and suburbs too. There’s just more to dilute it in bigger places but it’s still there. Equally, of course it isn’t a fair reflection of everyone who lives in rather less diverse small villages, or indeed some of the deprivation experienced in ‘Village’ life, which is arguably not as ‘visible’ as urban poverty. It’s a song I like in a way but as ever it’s likely do as much to divide and polarise than heal our probs with cutting edge sociological analysis. Generally I’m just not a massive fan of sweeping generalisations whoever is making them – but you know it’s a song with it’s punk swagger and I guess meant to be provocative. But of course it’s a snapshot of the negative, not an accurate reflection of the whole reality.

  24. “If you have a problem with it you are part of the problem”.


    Anyway, have to agree with Nathan. It’s a fine line, they’ve overstepped it for me.

  25. I think your all missing it. Mark Bowen is from Belfast. Im from Belfast, by the way, Im 65 and love Idles. The Village is a notoriously tough area of Belfast. I knew ‘the toughest man in the world’ he was from The Village. He once ‘kicked my head in’ in The Village. There was and still is a ‘lot of pink skin in The Village’

  26. Has anyone heard of Bolsover Model Village? Ex-company houses built by the now closed local coal mine. Inhabited by skint white people who linked their problems to immigration and voted in a Tory MP at the last election to make sure they got the Brexit they voted for. Bolsover is also where Farage held his Brexit Party launch event. Don’t know why this song makes me think of the place…

  27. May need to ask the band themselves, but personally I think it’s likely written about the specific village Joe Talbot grew up in. Just so happens many places fit the description. Nine-fingered boys could easily be about those who’ve lost one in factory work, where safety was/is one of many things worker-oriented that is underfunded and barely thought out, due to it not being a direct money maker for the company. Quite the opposite in that in the short term it costs the company money (long term would probably increase worker productivity among other benefits such as keeping all fingers attached in more cases). Is it not true most model villages were started as worker housing near industrial factories?

  28. I don’t even know why there’s any debate about this band, if you are a punk rocker of any sort. Anyone heard their first music? Indie/emo pop. They shoulda stuck with that. All of it feels so contrived. They act like they’ve got their finger to the system, but I have a personal experience with the band that shows that they’re like every other wankers pretending to be extreme. I Have a cannabis podcast (I won’t name it here, this isn’t spam, just part of the story). It’s about cannabis strain history (super nerdy involved plant botany type stuff) and I thought, Mr Motivator has some great parts in it, why not hit up the Idles manager and ask if I can purchase rights (not asking for free, we pay our dues). I shortly received a reply that the Idles “want no association with drugs” so, no.

    Now it’s obviously within their rights to say no, I could be any doucher. But it was that statement that sat with me. I made it clear and linked them to the podcast, it’s mathematics, chemistry, and plant biology when it comes to breeding science. And I agree, cannabis would definitely fit the bill of a “drug”. But…. If they’re anti big pharma and all of that, you’d also think they’d be all about freeing us from those shackles. But no, their newly earned punk rock reputation may get harmed if they’re associated with the Devil’s Lettuce!

    It was after this response that I really delved into their history. It’s also when I saw an early music video of them Emoing it up. A far cry from the Tiny Desk performance. I’m an old punk rocker, and I rarely ever even attempt to listen to new bands, so when I first heard The Idles I didn’t question whether they were Posers, (five minute fashion style) or whether they started out playing a totally diff style of music with a diff message.

    Anyway, that’s my two bits. This isn’t implying they’re anti cannabis, however I certainly gave away everything Idles I ever owned. Large disappointment in those human beings. And then reading about the story behind “Mother” and the actual history of Mr. talbot…. It’s a great act, they definitely had me fooled at the beginning.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here