Idlewild | Post Electric Blues (Nice Music)

It’s fascinating to hear an outfit once described with pinpoint accuracy as “the sound of a flight of stairs falling down a flight of stairs” arrive at this place.

 
 
 
With the group on hiatus (usually band-speak for “you’re never gonna hear from us again”), and with frontman Roddy Woomble seemingly engrossed in living the contemplative life in the Hebrides—wearing knit beanies, cultivating a mighty beard, making gentle folk-pop—it was heartening to see Idlewild resurface with Post Electric Blues. The band’s sixth album, it was funded by fan pre-order and originally self-released in the summer of 2009 before being picked up by a proper UK label that fall. Now, it’s finally seeing the light of day Stateside.
 
Post Electric Blues is a more folk-rock infused reaction (no doubt influenced by Woomble’s excellent, crunchy solo exploits) to the hyper-glossy, heavy rock assault of 2007’s Make Another World. That’s not to say it’s a hushed affair, there’s still plenty of rock on offer, but it’s no bludgeoning strike. It’s fascinating to hear an outfit once described with pinpoint accuracy as “the sound of a flight of stairs falling down a flight of stairs” arrive at this place.
 
The record’s harder rock numbers intermingle well with the mellow moments. “All Over the Town” and “Dreams of Nothing” hearken back to the punked-up ‘Michael Stipe fronting the Pixies’ style moments of The Remote Part, while “Post-Electric” takes fuzzy riffs and makes them first sing, then ultimately crash into a gloriously noisy drums-and-feedback instrumental breakdown.
 
Producer extraordinaire Dave Eringa imparts a clear, clean production to the LP, but one that’s more spacious and less processed than its predecessor. This is especially noticeable on the ballads. The violin, piano and male/female harmony-led stunner “Take Me Back to the Islands,” and the echoing, resigned finale “Take Me Back In Time” arrest with a big intimacy, as if you were sitting down directly in front of the band in a concert hall with immaculate sound system, for a private show.
 
The successful bridging of Idlewild’s past and present is most immediately evident in the catchy as hell “Younger Than America.” Rod Jones’ and Allan Stewart’s wiry, two-pronged guitar leads are joined by violin, acoustic strumming and guest Heidi Talbot’s Gaelic tinged backing vocals, all of which is stirred into one of the group’s big, trademark harmony choruses.
 
Woomble sings his heart out, delivering his always probing, poetic and wordplay-heavy lyrics in a voice that sounds refreshed after returning from a sabbatical. There’s a tranquil, clarion cadence in his vocals—not hectoring, but strong, and blissfully, astoundingly at peace with himself. It’s like when Bill Bailey swallows the Little Book of Calm in Black Books.
 
Freed from expectations, this is the sound of a comfortable, confident Idlewild. It feels less meticulous without becoming sloppy or unfocused. Mostly, it feels like the kind of music you’d write when you’re not worried, when you have time to breathe and not be bowled over by life’s oft-relentless pace. That’s a rare place to be, and one surely to be savored. B+ | Mike Rengel
 
RIYL: The idea of those guys with fiddles and accordions who occasionally take over the front room of Riley’s Pub jamming with friendly melodic rockers; amped-up feedback sharing space with a library-corner poetry reading; R.E.M.’s Out of Time

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