Idlewild 100 Broken Windows
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Idlewild are proud of their home nation. Every time he strums a chord in any given half-hearted genre shuffle for his band, it’s so clear to see that Roddy Woomble is one of Scotland’s truest patriots – perhaps it was once humble and restricted to small bouts of overpowering Scottish accent, but eventually it simply became an unmistakable admiration. He tried to bend the rules of the band’s third foray, The Remote Part, when Scotland’s very own poet Laureate Edwin Morgan opted to collaborate with Idlewild, squeezing an angry poem about the land’s literature into a completely unrelated song. Then, Woomble’s band made an attempt at writing Scottish folk in a conventional rock sound as their albums progressed, and eventually it all ended with recognition, the band donating a new creation to Songs of The Book, a modern day attempt at Scottish folklore. Thanks to Woomble, this is the band’s truest, proudest characteristic, and what better way to be recognised than with your country behind you? But thankfully, their sophomore effort needed an introduction to absolutely everyone, because there was nothing to live up to; Hope Is Important, the bands debut album, was a jumbled mess that really only succeeded in presenting Idlewild’s schisms. What was there to this record? There was pure hardcore punk with the most mediocre distain, with the band screaming through one minute of the most pointless introduction ever created. There was also sentiment as half way through and a few sessions of thinking later they wrote “I’m Happy To Be Here Tonight”, a weary acoustic outpour that sounded exactly like they would have wanted it to – coming out of a distant and ancient castle. In between these outcasts was a slob’s cut and paste job, with choruses and verses simply being positioned until the album faded away, never to be remembered again. This was the band’s blessing: nobody needs to remember this album (what a mix up!) until they have actually remembered what its wiser counterpart 100 Broken Windows, did. In recent years, the path faced with post-punk revival acts such as Interpol, Franz Ferdinand, Editors et al has become as frequent as possibly necessary. Yet there are even other alt rockers with the same desire to impel ‘real’ punk aggression into their typical offshoot of rock music, albeit keeping it to an accessible limit. Before the new millennium, anyone who had listened to the interpretation and definition by Manic Street Preachers of punk rock by means of The Holy Bible would have known that this would not be a particularly unique trend. Whether or not Idlewild travelled into the future and gauged any of this is unsure, but their happy millennium album, 100 Broken Windows, essentially restrained the unplanned, somehow wrong sounds they had one crafted and traded it in for something quite special. And while it’s easy to label Woomble’s alternative rock as ‘punk based’, what it really becomes is aggressive music floating amidst thoughtful music. For instance, the resemblance of a two-chord outfit on “I Don’t Have A Map” is there as Rod Jones cranks up the guitar and vibrates the room with distortion, and there’s even more evidence to fit the pedantic when Woomble is so close to screaming his lungs out as he sings You can’t cope without the contact! one last time. But what makes the track so delightfully brilliant – so enjoyable – is that the band stop and think, realise their limits, and create something that, to the wider world, is devoid of boundary. Again, the near-yells on “Idea Track” create something that has always mystified me – the idea of blending pop-punk with Britpop into one package. And this beautiful result of a chaotic, one-syllable anthem, sums up the connotations abound in the ‘punk’ side of 100 Broken Windows – they’re always hiding, and as they’re mixed with unpredictable, atonal piano, they’re just one small contribution to making it a masterpiece. Still, sometimes it’s even better for the band to tread down another path of outburst. Instead of reaching for the distressing, blasting vocals, the band are fusing absolutely anything they can get their hand on, bidding farewell to integrity and making some of the catchiest music ever. “These Wooden Ideas” draws in fuzzy, psychedelic keyboard that overlaps with moody guitar lines, and Woomble is left, the senile, crafty singer he is, to almost respond to the silent listener, retorting arguments with I bet you don’t know how to spell contradiction/I bet you don’t know how to sell conviction. It’s moments like these, where a sneakily long bridge is suddenly shattered with possibly the best chorus in history, that the band invoke their truest form of rock. Again, this power comes through when the band want to dig into their historical niches and end up squealing a sing-along verse of Gertrude Stein said “THAT’S ENOUGH!” in the fleshed-out, epic grunge nobility of “Roesability”. All these moments signify a lack of regard for musical prowess and a distinct adoration for simply thrashing their guitars, drums and vocals against one another, and it makes 100 Broken Windows, with its enclosed unhappy happenstance of echoes, one of the most claustrophobic, intense albums to listen in on. 100 Broken Windows never really had a circumstance to rely on in terms of making it truly special and provoking, which makes it even more remarkable as an album anyone can connect to emotionally. Lyrically, Woomble has scribbled out a brainstorm that looks nonsensical on paper, but suits every mood it touches. He references absolutely no-one in “The Bronze Medal”, crying out materialistic loathing with It felt cold inside/so we threw the television on the fire and rambling about coming third – but even when it should be so untouchable, it suits the abnormal piano ballad perfectly and becomes attaching. And even amidst each candid track’s lyrical weirdness, Idlewild can connect each and every amplified guitar note, piano chord and (just once), bagpipe line. In the end, it’s summed up in “The Bronze Medal” when, finally, Woomble knows what he wants to say, and becomes coherent enough to delicately sing It was always meant to be like this/when you’re somewhere that’s as cold as this. By the time this half-hum is over, there is simply one thing to understand about 100 Broken Windows: personality. It is an album about identity in so many abstract ways; the phobias of “Actually Its Darkness”, the imagination of humans that can be conveyed in “These Wooden Ideas”, and the full embodiment of human character in the albums disheartening, heavy closer. Everyone of Idlewild’s blurry ballads in 100 Broken Windows are almost suffocating in their emotional resonance, but more importantly, at the same time as they’re helping you discover what the album and band means to you, you’re also reminded – through the accent, the poetry, the avid instruments, whatever – that they’re true patriots. Enjoy forty minutes of Scotland’s uproar.