Yes, Idlewild are very much still a thing. Though they crashed into indie consciousness with the howling but literate snarl of 1998’s ‘Captain’ and ‘Hope Is Important’, the more nuanced, cult classic ‘100 Broken Windows’ would see the Scottish punks suddenly taken quite seriously. A couple of more mature and stately albums followed, but by the time Idlewild dropped the limp ‘Make Another World’ in 2007, things had changed.
The band, in their earliest days were famously hailed by the NME as “the sound of a flight of stairs falling down a flight of stairs”, by 2007 seemed more at home cruising up a Stannah Stairlift. But the fire was far from out. The crowd-funded and self-released ‘Post Electric Blues’ naturally went largely unnoticed in 2009, but had a vibrant and eclectic spark, while 2015 comeback album ‘Everything Ever Written’ won them critical acclaim, a tour in the big rooms and a charting in the top 20. On their own terms, they fought back – but where to next?
The answer: out there. With the help of their old friend and producer Dave Eringa, ‘Interview Music’ is rooted in the threads of their aforementioned eras, but drifts off the ground with a stargazing psychedelia and strangeness. Lead single ‘Dream Variations’ is a rollicking slave to melody like all of their best work, with a punchy Springsteen chorus and Roddy Woomble’s poetic lyrics. There’s a similar drive and a lightness to ‘There’s A Place For Everything’ too, while the title track wanders between a Death Cab-esque gem, a piano-rock meltdown and an attack on capitalism. “Consumers,” warns Woomble, “don’t come too close to the shore”.
It’s a fitting sentiment from a band never too bothered with shifting units, but who enjoy a knack for an ear-worm. ‘Same Things Twice’ and ‘Miracles’ bristle with the spikey post-punk exuberance that guitarist Rod Jones exhibited on their early work, but now with a few wiser left turns.
Things wander even further from the lucid on the kaleidoscopic and graceful ‘I Almost Didn’t Notice’, as he recalls how he “mistook the sound of ice breaking for the scattered remains of the sun”. It’s quite a trip. That fever dream state is best captured on album highlight ‘Mount Analogue, a bouncing brass-flecked-meets-post-rock riddle, punctuated by Robert Frost’s reading of his elegiac poem ‘Stopping By The Woods On A Snowy Evening’.
There’s a plodding predictability to ‘You Wear It Second Hand’, and ‘All These Words’ tries a little too hard to be arena rock, but the highs and lows add to its charm and tell of the character of the band. Free from commercial constraints, Idlewild are reinvigorated. ‘Interview Music’ is their best work in 17 years. They seem driven by the joy of making music great again. It won’t change the world, but this record is a wonderful world all of their own.