I enjoyed listening to & writing about Idlewild’s debut mini-album yesterday so I decided to look at the two singles they released prior to Captain. Queen Of The Troubled Teens (on Human Condition Records) & Chandelier (on Fierce Panda).
Queen Of The Troubled Teens is rough & raw. The production is particularly lo-fi & has an almost home-recorded feel to it. All of the elements that make Idlewild Idlewild are already in place, here on the first single. The songs are fast, angry & excitable. Roddy Woomble hasn’t quite developed his trademark scream yet but he’s not far off from it. You can hear fragments of melodies & rhythms that would eventually make it onto Captain &, their debut proper, Hope Is Important, though they have an ethereal, hard-to-focus-on quality.
Queen Of The Troubled Teens is fast, distorted & atmospheric Post-Punk? Or Pop-Punk? Could Idlewild, viewed through the lens of hindsight be the first Post-Pop-Punk band? The fuzzy guitar leads play tense, dramatic melancholic riffs that bring to mind a super fast early-Placebo.
First b-side Faster is lo-fi, shambolic punk/grunge with janky guitars & tape hiss all over the vocal track. It’s gloriously noisy & pretty much what got me into Idlewild in the first place.
Self Healer, which was rerecorded for Captain, is another jangly, Pop melody enthused monster. Much slower than the Captain version, this version sees the Pop qualities heightened. The melodies stand out stronger & clearer. It’s probably the best mixed & mastered tune on the single &, if the decision was in my hands, would have been the lead/title track. But hey ho.
Check the YouTube links of the tracks below.
Chandelier, recorded a year later than Queen Of The Troubled Teens, sees some serious improvements in the sound, songwriting & performance. Chandelier starts with a super-tight, fuzzed up guitar riff before the rhythm section & much improved vocals of Roddy Woomble drop in with both precision & fury. The guitar tones, the high pitched screaming & the slightly sad tilt to the melodies are here in full effect. As is the trademark early-Idlewild trick of repeating a good line four times for a verse. I remember Woomble saying in an interview that a) the repeated lines say everything he’s trying to say so why risk b) spoiling it by writing a follow up line which isn’t as good. This could have, & perhaps should have, been included on Captain.
I Want To Be A Writer is also strong enough to have been included on Captain. It would have been nice for Captain to have been 8 track long rather than 6. I assume there were probably licensing issues between Fierce Panda & Deceptive. All of the same strengths I mentioned before are in evidence on I Want To Be A Writer. Stylistically, I find it fairly similar (especially in terms of energy) to Hope Is Important opening track You’ve Lost Your Way, so perhaps they recycled elements of it for it in some way. Either way it’s excellent.
As a bonus I found this clip of a piano-led, downtempo version of Chandelier which was included as a b-side on the When I Argue I See Shapes single.
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