Idles, Cartesian Jetstream
Villa Marina, Douglas
23rd Nov 2012.

Hotly tipped Bristol guitar band Idles have been making quite a name for themselves locally. Chances are you’re going to hear a lot about these guys next year – they’re definitely ‘bubbling under’ & are probably properly readying themselves to take at least the UK if not the whole wide world by storm dead soon. It would appear however that whoever booked them in to play the Isle of Man a couple of weeks ago got ahead of themselves & booked them in to play this year the size of venue they’ll undoubtedly be selling out in a years time. However despite the fact that they were playing to a largely empty auditorium they still managed to put on a pretty good show, as our man in the audience, Liam Core testifies to below.

“Idles? Who the bloody hell are Idles?” was my reaction when I got an email informing me that they were playing the 1800 capacity venue in the town where I currently work. I like to think that I pay relatively close attention to the underground scene, but I had never heard if Idles before. Neither had most people outside of Bristol it seems. A quick bit of research shows they were not booked at any festivals outside of Bristol either this year or last, and are a band who usually play in support slots at small clubs around the UK. Certainly nothing wrong with that, but headlining a venue which has been played by Kaiser Chiefs, Morrissey, and Blondie in recent times, without having an album out, and no discernible buzz? Never seen that before.

The support act is Cartesian Jetstream, who describe themselves as a Psychedelic pop band from the Isle of Man. A total amount of fifty-eight people were in the hall when they walked on, although this quickly doubled as they played through their set. Personally, I’m not keen on the vast majority of bands on the local scene on the Island, many of whom sound dated and play through sets which would be more suited to a gig in Brian Potter’s Phoenix Club rather than any serious music venue.

It was therefore refreshing to hear a set from a forward thinking and innovative band such as Cartesian Jetstream. Echoing current hot prospects Savages and TOY, but with clear nods to Joy Division, especially the earlier, punkier stuff, they played a ten song set which was warmly received by the ever increasing crowd, which was approximately two hundred by the time they left.

Accompanied by an interesting if rather small projected video the set closed on a particular psychedelic note, with swirling guitars defining set closers House of Gardens and what appeared to be called Black Magic Mushrooms.

Whilst musically the band were solid, and quite enjoyable for the most part, unfortunately the amount of reverb in the venue clearly damaged the performance to the extent the vocals were almost indecipherable, even between songs when the band were speaking to the audience. Certainly enjoyable though, and well worth checking out in somewhere other than a huge, mostly empty theatre.

So then, Idles, or “The Idles” as many people were describing them in the run up to the gig. Before they come on, my main thought was how a band who have drawn comparisons with My Bloody Valentine, Interpol, The Walkmen, Editors, and The Jesus and Mary Chain, would manage to avoid the sound issues caused by playing in a near empty hall. Walking on stage to virtually no fan fare, front man Joe Talbot carried a cymbal around which would end up being bashed at random points throughout the gig.

 

Throughout the gig, it was clear that Idles possess a large number of influences and they seek to put as many of them into their music as possible. This creates a massive problem, in that there is no clear defined style. For instance, EP track 26/27 rips from Interpol so much that I was almost expecting Paul Banks to come out and start singing Obstacle 1, then next song Two Tone could well be a Membranes song. The stage presence doesn’t help either, with Joe Talbot doing a great job as the intense front man during songs, and then destroying the atmosphere of the gig entirely by going into super happy clappy sycophantic front man. The banter was completely at odds with the performance and the music. Perhaps it is understandable, this is almost certainly the largest indoor venue Idles have ever played, but also their biggest headlining gig ever. Musically speaking, the performance was good. A personal highlight being the heavily krautrock influenced Germany- even if the song seemingly had nothing to do with Germany itself (an old Joy Division and New Order trick, e.g. Ceremony, Procession, etc).

Penultimate song Mey Dei even inspired a small clap along amongst the crowd. The last song is a cover version, originally done by Damien the replacement guitarists band “The St. Pierres.” To no surprise, it’s totally different from the Idles own repertoire, with ‘classic’ rock guitars and a wild front man screaming. Most of the crowd didn’t know what to make of it.

How to analyse this band and this gig? Truth to be told, it’s quite hard. They were playing on a stage far above what they are used to, a point made during the gig when Joe referred to how big the stage was. Battling with the sound issues of playing a large and mostly empty hall was also a massive challenge, which despite the bands best efforts, was a battle which was lost. It’s a shame because the band are actually quite good.

In researching this article, I discovered Idles played The Castle in Manchester on Saturday 24th November. If I’d been in Manchester, I’d have happily gone along and watch them again, especially in a venue like The Castle. However this gig I’d just seen, in a venue which is notorious among locals for having a poor sound, and in a venue a size they are unlikely to ever play the size of again it’s hard to recommend.

It does beg the question what were the promoters thinking? There cannot have been any more than four hundred in the venue, and a sizeable number of those were adults who were clearly their just keeping an eye on their kids. Selling four hundred tickets at £15 a time is actually quite the achievement, certainly the most I have ever paid for a band who have don’t yet have an album out (and for comparison, I paid £9 for TOY last month in Manchester, and a ticket to the hotly tipped Savages in London in February will cost £15.40). Yes, there is the factor of travelling involved, but the aforementioned Castle gig tickets cost a fiver and Idles are not even the headliner. The optimist in me might think that it was a way to provide a decent nights entertainment for a music starved audience. The cynic in me might think this is nothing more than a money grabbing opportunity. Picking an unknown band, who don’t have the songs to play a long set, hyping them up to be something more than they actually are (The gig received lots of promotion over here, with large posters around the venue, and mentions on the radio and at the cinema, of all places) and exploiting that music starved audience. As usual, the reality probably lies somewhere in between. Did I think I got my fifteen quid’s worth? Certainly not. The little kid who asked the replacement guitarist for his autograph on the way out probably did though.

Setlist

Morning

Imagined

Blood Ballad

Thieves

26/27

Two Tone

Germany

Nice Man

Mey Dei

One More Track

Idles the band have a lush website you can visit here should you wish. They also hang out over at Facebook a bit & somewhat inevitably can also be found on Twitter. Catch more sounds by da chaps on the cloud of sound (aka Soundcloud) here.

All words by Liam Core. More by Liam can be read here.

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