Idlewild: The Remote Part (Capitol)

Musical swells are met with more of Woomble’s wisdom.

I thought Idlewild’s last release, 2000’s 100 Broken Windows (Capitol), was amazing, with not a bad song. For that reason, I approached The Remote Part with something resembling trepidation. Surely they couldn’t put out anything as catchy and dreamy as Windows, could they? Surely they would let me down.

Well, I was wrong. “You Held the World in Your Arms” kicks off the new disc with just as much heart. Interestingly, Roddy Woomble’s Scottish accent is audible on this track, especially as he sings one of his trademark thought-provoking lines, “Is consideration more like an exception of consideration?” Behind his words, a string arrangement builds on melodic guitars (Bob Fairfoull, bass, and Rod Jones, guitars) and a solid drumbeat (Colin Newton). The heavy guitar intro to the next track, “A Modern Letting Go,” tells you right off that this isn’t a wimpy Idlewild, contrary to what you’ve read in NME; in another Woomble-ism, he gives us, “If I know what I know, losing isn’t learning to be lost/It’s learning to know when you’re lost.”
“American English” sounds more European than American and is lyrically an anthem against selling out to the American Dream. As he chastises a friend for losing his values, Woomble jabs, “The good songs weren’t written for you, they’ll never be about you.” On “(I Am) What I Am Not,” the intentionally contradictory poet opens by saying, “Calling places, collecting careless/Sentences I write them down/So I ignore them, and you should too, you should ignore every word.” The rocking melody and catchy refrain may well take this song to radio.

Already a single, “Live in a Hiding Place” sounds as if it could have been an outtake from Windows. It’s a simple, scaled-down modern rock song with a backing chorus and a swelling bridge: “And you’re full of facts but not things that could add up to words/Think about meaning more as an after word/As in afterward.” “Century After Century” has an epic feel. Musical swells are met with more of Woomble’s wisdom as he sings, “Isn’t it romantic, to be romantic/When you don’t understand what you love/Or if a word like that could ever mean anything.”

The simple, straightforward “Tell Me Ten Words” is a gem as Woomble pleads, “Can you tell me ten words that you’d use to describe the world/To people, though people never seem to know.” Closing the album is the grandly scaled dual track, “In Remote Part/Scottish Fiction.” The first half begins with Woomble singing against a single guitar accompaniment; the latter half swells musically as poet Edwin Morgan reads the words to his poem “Scottish Fiction.”

Maybe I like Idlewild because Woomble’s singing style still reminds me of Morrissey with the Smiths. Maybe it’s the Scottish accent that still slips through, a lá Stuart Adamson of Big Country. Or maybe it’s the fact that they continue to put out albums that are poetically written and musically well-crafted.

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