Idles reveal why they no longer play classic song

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Within music, there are a number of varying opinions dotted around pertaining to how an artist should write, what they should write about, how to perform and what songs should be performed. However, one thing that remains relatively consistent across all musicians is a straightforward statement: “Play the hits.” However, that memo isn’t one that Idles choose to follow.

The majority of artists agree that when it’s time to go on stage and perform, the setlist will be carefully curated to include hits. While some musicians disagree; for instance, Bob Dylan is famous for altering songs in the live setting and often sounds nothing like the ones fans are used to. Equally, other refuse to play hit songs for personal reasons, but generally speaking, if you go to a live show, expect to hear the most well-known tracks.

This isn’t always the case for Idles fans, though. The punk band have made a career out of perfectly subverting expectations by playing passionately and angrily into themes of love and joy. It has set them out as one of the biggest rock outfits in Britain at the moment and given them a famous, high-energy live show.

“I’ve always found violence to be a beautiful thing in art,” said band frontman Joe Talbot in a new interview with The Independent. When he spoke about their third album Ultra Mono, he stated how the lyrics perfectly personified his anger at the time. “Write those words down and you can see they are not the words of a healthy man. I was scared and lost and angry.”

His fellow bandmate, Mark Bowen, interjected at this point, saying that while there is a clear amount of anger and hatred injected into those lyrics, at least it was honest, and Talbot was quick to agree. “That’s true,” he says.

This brings Talbot onto a revelation that embodies him as a performer and writer. Regardless of the theme at the centre of his work or how he intends to perform the track when on stage, the most crucial factor is that whatever he does, he needs to be honest.

He added: “I never lie – well apart from ‘Great’ on Joy As An Act of Resistance. That song is like a bad haircut, which is why we don’t play it. It’s not me.”

Joy As An Act of Resistance was the band’s 2018 record, which combined catchy choruses, stirring instrumentation, and a reframing of modern masculinity, capturing a precise moment in time in post-Brexit Britain.

While ‘Great’ was a staple of their live shows throughout 2018 and 2019, when they returned to playing live following the Covid-19 pandemic, it has only been performed once by the Bristolian group. Although it continues to be a fan favourite, the time has now come for Idles to move on.

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