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100 Broken Windows by Idlewild (Review)

An abrasive, tuneful pop-punk-rock collision that works because of the band’s talent and ability.

Named after a secluded spot in Anne of Green Gables, the Scottish quartet Idlewild first gained attention in 1997 with their mini-LP, Captain. The 6 songs on Captain weren’t really played so much as brutally hammered out; the raw, garage-punk sound was combined with Roddy Woomble’s repetitive, rather strange vocals. However, their recording was overshadowed by their live performances.

It was not uncommon for Rod Jones to destroy his guitar two songs into the set; one show saw five strings and the guitar’s bridge snapped off. That same show saw Roddy fall off the stage while screaming into his mic. The only other band that seems capable of making such destruction today would have to be At the Drive-In; At the Drive-In began destroying equipment one song into a recent set on the BBC. Such kindred spirits…

Despite how beautiful the band’s reckless attitude was, their first full-length showed maturity. Hope Is Important (1998 in Britian, a year later here) was a massive step forward. A cluster influence of Nevermind-era Nirvana, Fugazi, and the pop sensibility of REM produced sub-two minute bursts of adrenaline (“4 People Do Good,” ​“You’ve Lost Your Way”), tuneful abrasiveness (“A Film For the Future”), and sweeping pop (“When I Argue I See Shapes”). The live performances became more restrained. A tour with the Manic Street Preachers even came in March of 1999. The band began preparing for their second album later that summer.

100 Broken Windows finally saw its release here in March, nearly a year after its initial release in Britain. Once again, the changes and maturity of the band have produced stunning results. The influence of REM reeks all over the album, but the ironic part is that Idlewild’s efforts are better than anything REM has released in years.

The REM influence is combined with what is simply great songwriting. ​“Little Discourage,” ​“Quiet Crown,” and ​“Actually It’s Darkness” all follow the same formula — subdued verses slowly build up to massive, distortion-laden choruses with soaring melodies. ​“These Wooden Ideas” does the same thing, with keyboards adding extra effect. Roddy’s vocals have matured into self-help, sometimes accusatory diatribes; lines like ​“Why can’t you be more cynical?” and ​“I bet you don’t know how to sell conviction” stand out.

The overall effect is an abrasive, tuneful pop-punk-rock collision that works because of the band’s talent and ability. The fact that their second album is nearly flawless makes Idlewild’s future that much brighter. This is one of the best efforts that’ll probably be put out by a corporate label this year; I can’t recommend taking advantage of it enough.

Written by Chris Martin.

Read more about 100 Broken Windows, Food Records, and Idlewild.

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