It might sound like an unlikely aspiration to those unfamiliar with the more positive and optimistic side of punk rock, but English band Idles will aim to engender feelings of “violent compassion” when it plays The Broadberry on May 6.
“It’s a confusing blend of violence and compassion, but by the end you’ll feel part of it,” singer Joe Talbot said about the group’s energetic live show. “You’ll feel warm, welcome and safe, which is what we want.”
The critically acclaimed band is stateside in May to continue touring in support of its 2018 sophomore album, “Joy As an Act of Resistance.”
Whereas the band’s 2017 debut album, “Brutalism,” won praise from critics and audiences for its dark and brooding post-punk sound, with its sardonic, politically charged songwriting, Idles’ new album is more dynamic and diverse, without shying away from politics and aggression.
The band still touches on serious subjects, but there are far more moments of fun and levity that aren’t just meant to disguise their punches.
In a phone interview ahead of the band’s U.S. tour dates, Talbot said he intended to simplify the lyrics with the band continuing to make “beautiful, joyous and violent” music in order to become more approachable and thought-provoking.
“I think in general terms of where we’re going, it’s using compassion and understanding and empathy as a way of moving forward,” Talbot said. “That should resonate anywhere in the world right now.”
It would be hard to confuse the band for anything other than progressive, with no other lines on the new album emphasizing that more than these two lyrics: “I’ll sing at fascists ’til my head comes off,” and “This snowflake’s an avalanche” — in the self-aware leftist anthem “Scum.”
The band’s been open in challenging Britain’s intention to depart from the European Union, xenophobia and notions of masculinity (“I’m a real boy/Boy, and I cry/I like myself/And I want to try/This is why you never see your father cry”), all while extolling immigrants, compassion and self-love.
“If someone talked to you the way you do to you/I’d put their teeth through/Love yourself,” Talbot sings on the track “Television.”
In January, The New York Times featured Idles in a profile about a new wave of all-male bands and artists challenging “toxic masculinity.”
Even before the release of “Joy,” the band has touched upon perceptions of masculinity and gender-based violence, such as in the song “Mother.”
“Sexual violence doesn’t start and end with rape/It starts in our books and behind our school gates,” Talbot sings in the song’s bridge. “Men are scared women will laugh in their face/Whereas women are scared it’s their lives men will take.”
Talbot said the band does not wish to lecture audiences on politics, but there are more than a few strong political statements in his lyrics.
It isn’t all just biting criticism though.
On “Danny Nedelko,” a cheery track named for a Ukrainian-born friend of the band and dedicated to immigrants, Idles name-drops several world famous immigrants who have called the United Kingdom home, such as Queen singer Freddy Mercury and Pakistani education and women’s rights activist Malala Yousafzai.
The song, however, does not forget to recognize the numerous immigrants who go unnoticed in society — such as the “Nigerian mother of three” or the “Polish butcher” who live among us. “Fear leads to panic/Panic leads to pain/Pain leads to anger/Anger leads to hate,” the refrain goes.