In just 40 minutes, Joe Talbot says the word love 29 times. He speaks of gratitude as lifeblood, each new morning as a blessing. He talks of freudenfreude—that is, the opposite of schadenfreude, or “joy on joy,” as he puts it—less as a tool than as a weapon against a world that wants to diminish happiness, to compress it until it is controllable. On second thought, Talbot doesn’t actually say, speak, or talk much at all during TANGK, the totally righteous fifth album from his madcap truth-seekers, IDLES. Despite his reputation as an incendiary post-punk sparkplug, he sings almost all the feelings inside these 10 songs with hard-earned soul, offering each lusty vow or solidarity plea as a bona fide pop song—that is, a thing for everyone to pass around and share, communal anthems intended for overcoming our grievance.
In an explosive run of unerringly stirring albums, TANGK—pronounced “tank” with a whiff of the “g,” and an onomatopoeic reference to the lashing way he imagined the guitars sounding that has grown into a sort of sigil for living in love—is this band’s most ambitious and striking record yet. Where IDLES were once set on taking the world’s piss, squaring off with strong jaws against the perennially entitled, and exorcising personal trauma in real time, they have arrived in this new act to offer the fruits of such perseverance: love, joy, and indeed gratitude for the mere opportunity of existence. This music thrives not in spite of our problems but because of them. If we don’t look after ourselves and one another, all of TANGK seems to exclaim in one enormous hook after another, who will? “Keep my people up/That’s my tool,” Talbot snaps to end the first verse of the thrilling “POP POP POP.” Those people are all of us, Talbot included. These are impassioned notes to self: to keep going, to keep loving, to keep being.
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