July 30, 2002
Idlewild : London W1 Hanover Grand
The storm around them is just about to get a lot, lot bigger
Welcome to the eye of the storm. It's three days until Idlewild's third album proper 'The Remote Part' will crash into the upper reaches of the UK charts at number three, making their commercial peers the likes of Oasis, Nelly and LA funk-rock granpaws the Red Hot Chili Peppers. That's Idlewild, the rag-tag bunch of distressingly bearded indie under-achievers who many people dismissed in the same breath as the likes of Seafood and Embrace last time they had a record out two years ago. Excuse us for sounding cynical, but what went right?
Well, there's the bulletproof self-belief for starters. That and a new outlook - outwards from their native Scotland, rather than being suffocated by their roots.
Most importantly, however, they sound the part. Where last full-length outing '100 Broken Windows' hinted Idlewild were at least influenced by a quality record collection, the highlights of 'The Remote Part' see them take their influences and run with them. The thoughtful jangle of early REM or The Smiths are the most glaringly obvious, but just as often during their more raucous moments they plunder a rich seam of American college rock and avant-emo, referencing the daffy angularity of Pavement or Fugazi's tasteful bombast.
Secondly, in Robby Woomble they have a singer brimming compellingly with contradictions. There's no rock star posturing - in fact the opposite is true. At times during tonight's tiny club show, aimed at easing their new album onto a dedicated fanbase, he looks like the kind of Star Wars adoring fanboy who'd be scared of getting on public transport, let alone be willing to stand in front of thousands and put on a rock show.
But, if you look closely enough, emanating steadily from from under that ragged 'I cut my own hair' mop is an endearing self-confidence in his band's ability. You can see he's got a masterplan. The same way Coldplay's Chris Martin has, the same way Morrissey did when he was any good.
But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves just yet: Idlewild still have plenty of work to do and songs to write before they can consider themselves a truly great band. There's a still notable period this evening when their back catalogue lets them down - where they plod rather than soar. But the likelihood that this is as good as Idlewild are going to get is diminishing, replaced by the realisation that the likes of 'American English' and 'You Held The World In Your Arms' are just the tip of the creative iceberg.
It's not out of the question that in twelve months time people could be proclaiming Idlewild the most likely British export to succeed since The Smiths. Twelve months ago, the prospect of them not having a record deal at all was likely. It's an incredible transformation of fortunes, and pleasingly, it's all by their own diligent hand.
Apparently the Americans are waiting for this lot with open arms. The storm around them is just about to get a lot, lot bigger.
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