Review: Jack Foley
CRITICS have been quick to dismiss Idlewild as Scotland's answer
to REM, which is a far cry from their early days as head-banging
Yet ever since the early brilliance of singles such as When
I Argue I See Shapes, right through to the fairly recent
American English, they have consistently shown signs
of being something more than just a frenetic guitar band.
Certainly, The Remote Part displayed a much more mature
side to the band, capable of writing epic songs and incorporating
plenty of instruments, while hinting at the ambitious, sweeping
style of, say, REM.
That promise is fully realised in Warnings/Promises,
their latest long-player, which all but casts aside their clattering
punk roots in favour of a more refined style.
As with a lot of Idlewild's material, it keeps getting better
the more times you listen to it, as the musical diversity contained
within each song becomes more apparent, and each track has chance
The album gets off to a familiar start with the former single,
Love Steals Us From Loneliness, which looks set to have
become one of the band's biggest anthems. It is a mighty track
that was quickly and easily embraced by the Idlewild die-hards.
From then on, the style becomes a little more mixed-up. Second
track, Welcome Home, is a genuinely heartfelt ballad
that builds cleverly towards its guitar solo, showcasing Roddy
Womble’s distinct vocals at their most heartwarming.
The early fire of Little Discourage is evident in
I Want A Warning, which features plenty of wailing guitars,
and Womble's vocals at their angriest.
But such tracks are few and far between, preferring to take a
more slow-building stance.
I Understand It is the type of track that begs comparisons
with REM, particularly vocally, with Womble coming ridiculously
close to resembling the style of Michael Stipe at several points.
Yet it shouldn't detract from an otherwise excellent track that
provides a perfect showcase of the band's ability to deliver catchy
choruses and feel-good melodies, wrapped up in lush guitar riffs.
The more expansive sound is further demonstrated in another of
the album's highlights, El Capitan, which begins with
a gentle piano sound, before unleashing a lively drum beat and
more great guitars (some of which contain a country vibe).
Strings are employed to good effect on the shimmering The
Space Between All Things (another highlight), while the powerful
guitars of Blame It On Obvious Ways fade in and out well.
The epic, stadium-filler direction of certain tracks is best
exemplified by the towering Goodnight, which begins and
ends tenderly, but builds towards a mesmerising crescendo of sound.
It's a fitting finale to an excellent album that shows there
is no boundary to Idlewild's growing ambition. And that's something
which can only be embraced.