Ultra Mono by Idles
Since 2018’s Joy as an Act of Resistance, Idles’ rise to fame has been rapid. Selling out Alexandra Palace and winning a Brit Award is no easy feat for a left-wing punk/hardcore band with lyrics such as, “My race and class ain’t suitable, so I raise my pink fist and say black is beautiful”. Idles have managed to form a committed base of fans and get their message out to the mainstream. In Ultra Mono, the message of working-class pride and unity is consistent throughout. No doubt the album is shaped by their experiences growing up in austerity Britain.
However, Ultra Mono goes further, acting as a call to take on neoliberalism, racism and the Tory government. Most of the tracks use satirical or frivolous language such as “I see a lot of gammon in the village” but this is balanced with much more serious lyrics such as “Our Government hates the poor, cold leaders, cold class war” and “This is a pistol, for the wolf whistle, cause your body is your body”.
As neoliberalism fuels the pandemic’s spread, this album couldn’t have landed at a better time, acting as a voice for those oppressed by the government’s handling of Covid-19.
Róisín Machine by Róisín Murphy
For many, the home has transformed from a place of rest between work, play and politics to a one-site-fits-all. For Róisín Murphy, her living room became her stage. On YouTube, her use of props and sheer bombast took the artist-session-on-Zoom to new, comedic levels. Playing with themes of selfdiscovery, Murphy’s album is a triumph from the former singer of Moloko, whose solo career has long been dogged by the word ‘overlooked’.
The album follows a series of 12” made with Sheffield producer Richard Barrett, with whom Murphy has been collaborating for some time. Radio 3’s Petroc Trelawny described how a socially distanced orchestra sounds like “an orchestra of soloists”. Gone are sweaty dance floors full of strangers; today, we’re firing up the speaker system or headphones and dancing like no one’s watching because, well — they often aren’t.
Sequenced as a DJ set, the album builds steadily from deconstructed trance on Kingdom of Ends through to exhilarating disco strut on Jealousy and Narcissus. Much like our hard-working living rooms, this is the right kind of album to soundscape an afternoon of kitchen table spreadsheets, or anytime disco.
On Our Radar
Black Thought Streams of Thought Vol.3: Cane and Able The Roots rapper follows up his 2018-launched solo career with another raw album examining self, marriage and racism. Full of energy and loose, rolling structures.
YouKounkoun (EP) by Falle Nioke & Ghost Culture UK-based, Guinean multilingual percussionist and singer Falle Nioke meets beguiling beats of electronic producer James Greenwood, AKA Ghost Culture.
Landslide by Martha Hill Newcastle-based alt-pop singer fuses husky vocals and melodic hooks over synth beats for a catchy, layered sound.