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Indie Rock Post Punk Song of the Day

Song of the Day (Covers): Idlewild – I Found That Essence Rare

Day 7. I Found That Essence Rare was originally recorded by Post-Punk heavyweight’s Gang Of Four on their ’79 masterpiece Entertainment!

Idlewild’s version, recorded as a b-side for the ’02 single Live In A Hiding Place, is pretty faithful, but with much crisper production. Despite the straightforwardness of the cover, there’s still a great deal of Idlewild’s sound & charm in the sound.

Aim for the body rare, you’ll see it on TV
The worst thing in 1954 was the bikini
See the girl on the TV dressed in a bikini
She doesn’t think so but she’s dressed for the H-bomb
(For the H-bomb)

I found that essence rare, it’s what I looked for
I knew I’d get what I asked for

Aim for the country fair, you read it in the paper
The worst happens any week a scandal on the front page
See the happy pair smiling close like they are monkeys
They wouldn’t think so but they’re holding themselves down
(Hold themselves down)

I found that essence rare, it’s what I looked for
I knew I’d get what I asked forI found that essence rare, it’s what I looked for
I knew I’d get what I asked for

Aim for politician fair who’ll treat your vote hope well
The last thing they’ll ever do act in your interest
Look at the world through your Polaroid glasses
Things’ll look a whole lot better for the working classes
(Working classes)

I found that essence rare, it’s what I looked for
I knew I’d get what I asked forI found that essence rare, it’s what I looked for
I knew I’d get what I asked for

Looking for some great music? Why not check out the Song of the Day (Covers) Spotify playlist?

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Idlewild – The Mince Showercap Trilogy

Idlewild are a band who, in their early days at least, had amazing b-sides. Sadly a lot of these are hard to track down on CD or Vinyl now, twenty-odd years later so we can be thankful to various YouTube uploaders for keeping them in circulation. The band released a pretty decent compilation of pre-Hope Is Important rarities & b-sides but it is missing some of the best, in my opinion. Especially the Mince Showercap trilogy.

The Mince Showercap Trilogy

Classics

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Idlewild – Queen Of The Troubled Teens & Chandelier

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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Overlooked Classics: Idlewild – Captain

The mini-album (pretty much ’90’s Indie jargon for EP) Captain was the first proper release by Idlewild, on Steve Lamacq’s Deceptive Records, following excellent early singles on Edinburgh based Human Condition Records & boutique Indie label Fierce Panda.

I think one of the major criticisms I’ve read about Captain, & this includes from the band themselves, is that it’s not really a coherent collection of songs, but more an advert for the bands live show. I’m not sure I agree with this assessment 100% as I think Captain is a fine selection of songs, although it does reflect their chaotic & noisy live performances (at that time) perfectly. One NME journalist imaginatively described their live sound as “a flight of stairs falling down a flight of stairs,” & this is apparent on at least a few of the tracks here.

It’s important to not believe the hype regarding the chaos & noise though, as buried in the sonic assault of American Alt-Rock guitar fuzz & furious hardcore drumming are really decent songs with hummable pop melodies & thoughtful, poetic lyrics.

Opening track Self Healer is probably the closest that Captain comes to the hyped descriptions of their sound. A frenzied punk scream-a-long, drums beat at breakneck speed & furiously thrashed, distorted guitars. The vocals range from the intense screaming of the opening “1,2,3,4,” to the melodic crooning of the “a song is a beautiful lie” of the chorus.

Annihilate Now! is moody, atmospheric Alt Rock. Pitched somewhere between the Pixies & Sonic Youth, it’s chirpy, Pop verses give way to fuzzy, anthemic choruses in a pure expression of the “Grunge formula” (that’s quite verses & loud choruses to the uninitiated, something sadly missing in the Post-Loudness War world).

The title track, with it’s atmospheric speak singing in a faux-American accent & the primal howling of the big chorus, resembles Slint on steroids. The spidery, repetitive riffing of Spiderland recycled into a more upbeat, Post-Punk tempo. This is a personal favourite for me & I remember seeing them play extended improvised endings to it on several occasions when I saw them live. The track would often end with guitarist Rod Jones, alone on the stage, laying on his back, playing a massively distorted & detuned version of the main riff for ages.

Last Night I Missed All The Fireworks is jangly, uptempo Punk Pop with the simple lyric “Last night I missed all the fireworks, I must be working too hard,” repeated throughout the verses. The song codas off with furious power chord riffing & strangled, vocal yelps.

Satan Polaroid was the other “single” from Captain (alongside Annihilate Now!), by which I mean songs which were promoted to radio. It’s another cheery Pop number, but with ambitious multi-tracked vocals (including harmonies!) & melancholic, mournful melodies. Fuzzy Alt Rock at it’s best.

Closer You Just Have To Be Who Are takes the quiet Slint style speak-singing verses, menacingly atmospheric, repetitive riffing, & furiously screamed choruses & turns them into a furious Grunge Pop song designed to make an audience bounce. Perhaps of all the songs on Captain, You Just Have To Be Who You Are, is the one which most closely resembles an “advert” for the bands live show. After a couple of the amazing verse/chorus, quiet/loud sequences, the song caries on into an improvisational noise jam. Guitars are thrashed as energetically as Idlewild ever have. After a minute or so of this, the improvisation slows down & slowly fades out over a much quieter, moodier section with whispered vocals (“the captains always been my friend”) & Sonic Youth-esque plucking of guitar strings above the nut. It’s a fitting end to a thrilling experience.

As Captain is not longer available through digital retailers & used copies are increasingly harder to find, I’ll share YouTube links of the tunes here.

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Indie Rock Music Song of the Day

Song of the Day (A-Z): Idlewild – Actually It’s Darkness

As a way to ease the boredom of lockdown I have decided to participate in the Song of the Day challenge proposed by fellow blogger William. I will be choosing a song a day for each letter of the alphabet. Also inspired by William, I will reproduce the lyrics to the song where possible (ie. unless it’s an instrumental song).

For day 1 (or day A) I have chosen Actually It’s Darkness by Idlewild. This was the second single to be released from their excellent second album, 100 Broken Windows. As far as I know it’s the only single to chart in the UK top 40 with the word ‘actually’ in it’s title, reaching #23 in March 2000. It’s a melodic slice of post-R.E.M. indie pop with typically clever lyrics, catchy hooks and a chorus which is anthemic in an understated way.

You thought the fire could protect you from it
But why have you been so, why have you been ill informed?
I felt that fire could protect me from everything
You’re just too gullible

Actually it’s darkness, I don’t know what I’m scared of
It’s darkness, I must be scared of something
You must be scared of something, quite quite special

You shed a shade of shyness
You shed a shade of shyness
You shed a shade of shyness
Why can’t you be more cynical?

I knew the winter could protect me from it
One box if film won’t make it all go cold
I thought that winter could hide me from everything
I’m just too gullible, for words

Actually it’s darkness, I don’t know what I’m scared of
It’s darkness, I must be scared of something
You must be scared of something, quite quite special

You shed a shade of shyness
You shed a shade of shyness
You shed a shade of shyness
Why can’t you be more cynical?

I don’t look the same in the photograph
I need to look the way I did in the photograph
By mentioning places it will all become clear
If we speak the same language, you’re a deeper darker reason…

You shed a shade of shyness
You shed a shade of shyness
You shed a shade of shyness
Why can’t you be more cynical?

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