Stirling University

The change in Idlewild extends beyond slowing their pace...

It was always clear from the start that [a]Idlewild[/a] would tire of their scratchy poonk-rock beginnings quicker than we did, that they would improve immeasurably with each successive record. How long could you break instruments and spill blood and play rock’n’roll discord before you deadened your impact with repetition, before you broke something that wouldn’t heal?

Their new LP, ‘100 Broken Windows’, channels their initial autistic frenzy into a more structured sound, it even boasts – urk! – a piano ballad. But is this growing sophistication at the expense of their ragged live show (like a flight of stairs falling… oh, you remember)?

The [a]Wire[/a]-y opening song tonight, ‘Little Discourage’, suggests they’re losing the chaos to gain a deeper strength. Whereas in the past [a]Idlewild[/a] would have combusted from the get-go, the brittle, chiming riff builds and builds until it finally explodes into a soaring chorus.

Other new songs continue in the same vein: ‘These Wooden Ideas’ marries a claustrophobic New Order riff to frontman Roddy Woomble‘s despairing lyrics, while ‘Roseability’ swathes ‘Green’-era REM anthemic melancholy with noose-tight guitars, kicking up to a deafening kiss-off. [a]Idlewild[/a] aren’t so much pulling their punches as boxing clever, sharpening their attack, stepping the dynamics up a gear.

Tugging at his ‘Playboy Mansion’ T-shirt, clasping at the mic like a life buoy in a storm, Roddy is as riveting a frontman as ever. A year or so ago, he’d be lashing out, falling down, staggering wildly in the serrated rock’n’roll ballet that’d become his trademark. Tonight, the moves are different, calmer: an impassioned howl, reining in the haywire nervous energy which was on the verge of working against them. During a harrowing ‘Idea Track’, Roddy deftly wraps himself around the microphone stand, wholly lost in the song. Just as intense, but expressing something different, something broader than just the (admittedly thrilling) angst of yore.

The change in Idlewild extends beyond slowing their pace. That they pull off the tricky, mid-paced ‘Safe And Sound’, with Rod Jones‘ and live addendum Jeremy Mills‘ (of Peeps Into Fairyland) swooping guitars replacing the strings, is evidence of a new-found confidence and ambition. Dodging the typecast, tearing up the blueprint, plotting paths beyond our expectations, this is where Idlewild take the lead, make flesh of their previous sketches. You’d be well advised to follow.